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SYFY WIRE The Ark

The Asteroid Apophis Will Visit Us in 2029 and NASA Wants Your Ideas for a Mission

Apophis will fly by our planet in 2029 and NASA wants to catch up with it.

By Cassidy Ward

In a fictional future roughly a century from now, humanity is struggling to survive on a dying planet and readying for the greatest adventure in the history of our species: our first journey to another star. With any luck, our actual introduction to interstellar travel won’t be quite as stressful as The Ark (streaming now on Peacock), but there’s no telling. The universe is ambivalent about us and our continued existence. By its way of operating, bound only by the laws of physics and what can happen, a deadly flare, gamma ray burst, or killer asteroid has just as much right to inhabit this point in spacetime as we do.

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RELATED: NASA Charts Mission to Apophis, the Near-Earth Asteroid Named for the Egyptian God of Chaos

For a little while, a few years back, the asteroid Apophis was public enemy number one, topping the list of potentially deadly impactors. Since its discovery, additional observations have confirmed that we’re in no real danger, at least for the foreseeable future. While it won’t impact the planet, Apophis is going to get incredibly close to the Earth in 2029, and NASA wants your ideas for a potential mission.

Do You Have an Idea for an Apophis Asteroid Mission? NASA Wants to Hear It

Already, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has been reoriented and rechristened OSIRIS-APEX, and is right now on a rendezvous path with Apophis. But a close pass with a large impactor like this only happens about once in a thousand years, and scientists are champing at the bit to make the most of it. A group of students at MIT’s School of Engineering are busily putting together a mission proposition which, if accepted, would be launched in 2026 in order to meet up with the asteroid three years later. And they aren’t the only ones who want a bite at the asteroid apple.

To that end, NASA is holding a listening session in order to hear innovative and low-cost ideas for missions to Apophis. The session is aimed at researchers, international space agencies, and members of the commercial space industry, but they’re also inviting “other interested parties” to participate.

The workshop is scheduled for February 7 at NASA’s headquarters in Washington DC. It will begin at 9:00 AM local time with a briefing from NASA officials, followed by one-on-one sessions beginning at 11:00 AM ET. Space is limited and one-on-one sessions will be determined and scheduled by NASA. Each session is limited to three individuals from each organization and will last no longer than 30 minutes. 

RELATED: The Asteroid Apophis Isn’t Likely to Hit Earth. But if it Did, What Could we Do?

Interested parties have until January 19 to RSVP. Details regarding what information to send, what to bring to your one-on-one (and what not to bring), how to RSVP, and additional details can be found on NASA’s website. If you’re hoping to catch up with this passing asteroid, you’re going to want to act fast. Apophis is on its way toward us right now, traveling at more than 30 kilometers per second (nearly 70,000 miles per hour) and we won’t get another opportunity like this for a while. Maybe that’s for the best, we’re not exactly wishing for close brushes with big space rocks.

Catch the complete first season of The Ark streaming now on Peacock.

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