Washington, Aug 7 (ANI): Last week experts warned of an eminent collision between an asteroid and Earth. Now, NASA is planning to visit the space object.
The asteroid 1999 RQ36 made headlines last week with the announcement that the space rock could hit our planet in 2182.
But NASA scientists are on a sample-return mission OSIRIS-Rex (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer) to help us better predict-and avoid-impact hazards.
The asteroid is a hot favourite because it's thought to be rich in material that's remained unchanged since the early days of the solar system.
"Being one of the easiest targets to get to coincidently means that it also can easily hit us, too," National Geographic News quoted Michael Drake, director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, as saying.
RQ36 passes within about 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) of Earth's orbit. As a result, NASA has officially classified RQ36 as a "potentially hazardous asteroid."
The impact won't be civilization threatening, but will be quite powerful.
"Our mission would be able to tell us a lot about the nature of its surface and what its made of," Drake said.
"There is no doubt that this information will be crucial to defending ourselves from an impact from this or any other asteroid."
In general, Southwest Research Institute's Chapman added, "any close-up study of an asteroid will increase our appreciation of the physical nature of these diverse bodies and thus improve the likelihood that we won't be fooled when and if we try to interact with the body to move it." (ANI)