South Korea cancels Apophis mission

South Korea has decided to cancel the planned mission to the asteroid Apophis. This was reported by the Ministry of Science of the country. The reason given is the lack of technical capabilities to implement the project in the required time.

Canceled mission to Apophis

The project of the South Korean mission to Apophis was published in 2020. Within its framework, it was planned to create a spacecraft that would be launched between July 2026 and January 2027. The probe was supposed to accompany Apophis during its historic approach to Earth in April 2029. The main objectives of the mission were to map the asteroid, study the structure and assess the impact that our planet will have on it. The cost of the project was estimated at USD 307 million.

he asteroid Apophis in the artist’s image. Source: Unistellar

Unfortunately, the Korean leadership eventually decided to cancel the mission. According to representatives of the Ministry of Science, technical analysis has shown that the country’s industry will not have time to build a spacecraft and a launch vehicle by 2027. Therefore, the project was canceled. At the same time, according to officials, this does not mean that South Korea has basically abandoned plans to explore asteroids. It is expected that in the next Basic Plan for the Development of the country’s Cosmonautics (work on it will begin in the second half of 2022), a project for another asteroid mission will be proposed.

OSIRIS-REx’s visit to Apophis

But, although South Korea will not send its probe to Apophis, at least one Earth envoy will have to visit it. We are talking about the OSIRIS-REx device. After dropping a capsule with samples of the matter of the asteroid Bennu to Earth, NASA will change the trajectory of the device, sending it to a meeting with Apophis. It will take place in April 2029, just a few days after its approach to Earth.

SIRIS-REx near the surface of the asteroid Apophis. Source: Heather Roper

Over the next 18 months, the spacecraft will study the asteroid and how Earth’s gravity affected its orbit. In addition, OSIRIS-APEX will perform several maneuvers, during which it will come close to Apophis, and then activate its engines. This operation should expose the subsurface layers of the asteroid and allow studying their structure and chemical composition.

Recall that Apophis was chosen as a target at the recent astronomers’ exercises to identify an asteroid potentially dangerous to the Earth and calculate its orbit.

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