First it punched an asteroid. Now, a NASA spacecraft’s rampage may continue and it could blast a hole in another space rock.
The OSIRIS-REX spacecraft is on its way back to Earth, having thwacked — briefly — the surface of an asteroid called Bennu last year to scoop up samples. It will arrive home in 2023, ejecting a capsule full of samples that may help eager scientists decipher the origin of Earth’s water and life.
But the spacecraft will have plenty of fuel left. Its mission team wondered: Could it go somewhere else?
Yes, it turns out. And not just anywhere, but one of the most famous near-Earth asteroids: Apophis.
“We were pretty excited when we found out we could go there,” said Michael Nolan from the University of Arizona, the science team chief on the mission, who presented findings this week at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans.
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