Michael Nolan, Research Professor and OSIRIS-APEX Mission Deputy Principal Investigator, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona
Wednesday, February 1, 2023,
ASA Koffler Great Room & Zoom
As the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx spacecraft returns to Earth with its sample of asteroid Bennu, The UArizona/LPL team is planning its next adventure. Because we had very few spacecraft problems at Bennu, the spacecraft has enough fuel to go to another target. Immediately after dropping off the Bennu sample on September 24 of this year, it will fire its rockets to head to the asteroid Apophis. Apophis is about 1000 feet across, half again as big as the UArizona stadium, or about as big as the Tucson airport terminal. When it was discovered in 2004, Apophis was predicted to have a 4% chance of hitting Earth on April 13, 2029. After more study, we now know that it will not actually hit Earth, but pass by at about a tenth of the distance to the Moon, and closer than some Earth-orbiting satellites. At that time, the OSIRIS-APEX Mission will rendezvous with Apophis and study in detail for the next 18 months in 2029 and 2030
The study of Apophis has two goals. The first is to learn more about this type of stony asteroid, whose composition is quite different from Bennu’s, and what it will tell us about the early history of the solar system. The second goal is to learn all we can that might mitigate potential damage to the Earth by the future impact of Apophis or other near-Earth asteroids.
Michael Nolan has a BS in Chemistry from Caltech and a PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona. Before returning to UA in 2015 as a Senior Research Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory to work on the OSIRIS-REx mission, he worked as a Research Associate at the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, with various positions including Observatory Director. He is a team member for the DART mission which tested the ability to modify an asteroid’s trajectory and is now the Deputy Principal Investigator for the OSIRIS-APEX Mission. He is a recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Public Leadership Medal.
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