NASA Plans Close-Up Asteroid Flyby To Test Its Tracking System. Here’s Why This Is So Important To You


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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NASA’s Lucy spacecraft is adding another asteroid encounter to its extensive journey through our universe, the agency announced Wednesday.

The Lucy mission intends to visit at least nine asteroids during its 12-year journey around the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, which all orbit our local star (the Sun) at around the same distance as the gas giant, according to NASA. Lucy wasn’t supposed to get a close-up shot of a giant space rock until at least 2025, but in true NASA fashion, team members recently identified a small, unnamed asteroid that might make the perfect target for an earlier observation.

“There are millions of asteroids in the main asteroid belt,” Lucy collaborator from the Nice Observatory in France, Raphael Marschall, said in a statement. “I selected 500,000 asteroids with well-defined orbits to see if Lucy might be traveling close enough to get a good look at any of them, even from a distance. This asteroid really stood out. Lucy’s trajectory as originally designed will take it within 40,000 miles of the asteroid, at least three times closer than the next closest asteroid.”

While some companies, such as AstroForge, are finally on their way to gathering the necessary data to develop tools and instruments for potentially mining asteroids in the future, the work by NASA comes amid growing speculation that our planet is far more vulnerable than we ever realized.

Proxy data from debris sites all over the world prove the planet has been bombarded by asteroids throughout our recent past. Most notably, bone sites in Alaska and fossil deposits across the U.S. suggest that not only were mass extinction events correlated with the timing of asteroid impacts, but the tsunamis caused by such events may have pushed ancient human civilizations back to the brink of extinction as recently as 11,700 years ago.

We know enormous asteroids have hit the surface of our planet before, and we know they will again. But we’re just not doing enough to track these rocks as they fly around our immediate cosmos. (RELATED: Remains Of Dinosaurs Killed The Day Massive Asteroid Hit Earth Discovered, Scientists Say)

In January 2023, an asteroid the size of a minibus was only discovered a few days before it flew lower than many of our orbiting satellites. NASA did not discover the asteroid: An amateur astronomer found it and reported it. The more NASA focuses on inspecting and exploring our immediate vicinity in space and the giant heaps of rock floating around us, the safer we’ll be in the future.