Washington, 27 Apr (ONA) --- NASA has extended the mission of its Osiris-Rex probe for nine years in order for it to reach a new destination, the US space agency said today.
The spacecraft Osiris-Rex is currently on its way back to Earth to deliver samples from asteroid Bennu that it collected in 2020.
Renamed OSIRIS-APophis EXplorer (Osiris-Apex), the spacecraft will be redirected to encounter Apophis, an asteroid roughly 370 metres in diameter that will come within 32,000 km of Earth in 2029.
"OSIRIS-APEX will enter orbit around Apophis soon after the asteroid's Earth flyby, providing an unprecedented close-up look at this S-type asteroid," NASA said in a statement.
The spacecraft is to study changes in the asteroid caused by its close flyby of Earth and use the spacecraft's gas thrusters to attempt to dislodge and study the dust and small rocks on and below Apophis' surface.
"Extended missions provide us with the opportunity to leverage NASA's large investments in exploration, allowing continued science operations at a cost far lower than developing a new mission," explained Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA's Headquarters in Washington.