Bennu © NASA
NASA is about to launch a $1 billion 7-year mission to probe asteroid Bennu, which may carry the building blocks of organic life, but also has a chance of hitting Earth late in the next century.
“It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death,” Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University and the lead researcher on the OSIRIS-REx mission, told the Sunday Times.
Discovered in 1999, Bennu measures about 500 meters across, weighs over 60 million tons, and travels at over 100,000 kilometers per hour.
Its trajectory is unpredictable due to what is known as the Yarkovsky effect, in which the asteroid absorbs the energy of sunlight and then gives it off as heat, which serves as a thruster that constantly makes slight shifts to its path.
Lauretta says that, if Bennu were to hit Earth, its impact would…
View original post 336 more words