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The giant asteroid Bennu approaches Earth Thursday at 3:26 p.m. ET, but it’s likely to be so close that it will not be visible to the naked eye.
The NASA-led asteroid brush will take place in conjunction with numerous small solar system telescopes positioned on Earth, but it’s not easy to see the sky activity. All told, the total flight time of this mission will be roughly 13 minutes and 30 seconds.
Before any potential collisions with Bennu, the Japanese space agency, JAXA, will test its own space defense system using the Hinode space probe, which will encounter the asteroid no closer than 0.4 light-years away. Hinode is a first-of-its-kind radar observatory that was built and launched in 2017.
On July 13, 2018, the U.S. fired an exploding tear gas capsule into the asteroid, which detected its presence with powerful radar waves. As the pellets hit the surface of the asteroid, they give off fragments of choice materials and create a shocking sonic boom that travels a short distance away from the asteroid before exploding.
Multiple NASA spacecraft have been successfully deploying spacecraft into space on a steady pace since the 1990s, and there are several years of preparation and testing left before the asteroid collision, according to NASA.
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What to know about space junk on Mars:
A Mars rover has potentially come into contact with an asteroid the size of a football field, according to NASA.
On Jan. 19, a Vesta asteroid grazed close to the top left of the spacecraft. The cruise phase of the Curiosity rover reached a high point just before hitting the asteroid, and it was descending to its lowest speed when it was hit.
The 100-foot tall Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, and it was designed to have a 50-meter laser laser that could vaporize rock targets.
‘We want to understand as much as we can about where asteroids are,’ said NASA spokesperson John Dern with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We want to understand whether we may be able to use resources on Mars to boost us out of harm’s way.”
‘It makes for exciting science and it makes for exciting development of a whole suite of planetary defense tools. This is going to be good science, and it’s going to be key to our understanding.’
“The rover landed on the surface of Mars and positioned itself to see if there were interesting data that we could learn about the ground it was on,” said Steve Squyres, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover mission. “But instead, what we found was that the asteroid had hit the rover in the middle of its solar panel, and because of the size of the target that would be hit, the separation of the needle … was too large, and the solar panels had protected the rover from its impact. So it avoided the asteroid, but it missed it.”