NASA scientists explained that the 1,640-mile-wide asteroid Bennu which is slated to perform a close flyby of our planet in 2135 is expected to make a comeback nearly half century later and possibly hit us.
Researchers said that a collision is highly probable if the space rock’s current orbit is altered during the 2135 flyby. The U.S. space agency is planning to send a spacecraft to Bennu to gather rock samples and analyze it up front.
NASA said that the space body could generate “immense suffering and death” if it is ever to impact our planet. Bennu whizzes past our planet’s orbit every six years, but it would come dangerously close to Earth in 2135.
Researchers are concerned that at that point the Earth’s gravitational pull could modify the asteroid’s regular orbit and set it on a collision course triggering an impact 40 years later.
Prof. Dante Lauretta of Arizona University noted that the close flyby would “potentially” put Bennu on course for our planet later in the century. Still, researchers acknowledged that they cannot yet tell how exactly the flyby would alter the Doomsday asteroid’s orbit.
- Lauretta added that the odds of a collision are “one in 2,700 from 2175 to 2196.”
- The team explained that because of its tremendous speed – 63,000 mph – Bennu could wreak havoc on our planet.
- At that speed, the force of the impact will be equal to the energy released by 3,306,933,932.773 tons of explosives, researchers said.
NASA is so worried that it has decided to deploy a probe to analyze the asteroid. According to the agency, the OSIRIS-REx probe will be launched next month and will need two years to reach the asteroid’s surface.
OSIRIS-REx is programmed to spend a year on the asteroid and send precious scientific data such as rock samples back to Earth. In 2023, the spacecraft is expected to be back home. Researchers said that this will make OSIRIS-REx the first probe to reach an asteroid and return home.
The first probe which first visited an asteroid was the European Space Agency’s Philae probe, whose communications with its mothership were cut off last week as the probe has been unresponsive for more than a year.
But unlike Philae, OSIRIS-REx will not land on Bennu’s surface to do science. It will hover over the asteroid and collect rock samples while it gets in contact with the surface for no more than 5 seconds. The probe will use a special vacuum to quickly gather the needed samples.
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