NASA’s OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft to fly closer to the Sun than ever before

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 02-12-2023 11:42 IST | Created: 02-12-2023 11:42 IST
NASA’s OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft to fly closer to the Sun than ever before
Image Credit: NASA
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NASA's OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft, formerly known as OSIRIS-REx, is gearing up to fly closer to the Sun than ever before to reach its target i.e. asteroid Apophis.

The closest approach, called perihelion, is scheduled for January 2, 2024, when OSIRIS-APEX will be about 46.5 million miles away from the Sun, roughly half the distance between Earth and the Sun, and well inside the orbit of Venus. This close flyby will expose its components to higher temperatures than they were designed to endure, NASA said in a statement.

OSIRIS-REx delivered the Bennu sample to Earth on September 24, 2023, and then embarked on a new mission. The team proposed to dispatch the spacecraft on a bonus mission to Apophis, which gave birth to OSIRIS-APEX, short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security - Apophis Explorer.

Asteroid Apophis will come within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth in 2029. OSIRIS-APEX is scheduled to enter the orbit of Apophis soon after the asteroid’s close approach to Earth to see how the rare close encounter affected the asteroid’s orbit, spin rate, and surface. Apophis will also be visible to observers on the ground in the Eastern Hemisphere with the naked eye.

The upcoming perihelion is the first of six close Sun passes, along with three Earth gravity assists, that OSIRIS-APEX is scheduled to undertake to reach Apophis in April 2029.

Apophis was discovered in 2004 and was identified as one of the most hazardous asteroids that could impact Earth. However, it was later removed from the impact risk list.

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