Updated analysis later showed that the asteroid, which dances around Earth’s orbit, would have no impact on our planet. But it will still come close in April 2029 at a distance of just 20,000 miles, within the orbits of some geostationary satellites, and close enough to be visible to the naked eye in Europe, Asia and Africa.
If mission controllers on Earth sent OSIRIS-REX to complete three orbits of the planet after dropping its monsters, it could by chance reach Apophis. When the asteroid flies through our skies, OSIRIS-REX would be just an hour behind, ready to slide upwards in June 2029.
“It’s kind of a fluke,” Dr. Nolan said.
While Apophis poses no threat to Earth — at least for the next century or so — studying it could tell us a lot about asteroids of this size. Currently, no other mission is planned to visit Apophis in 2029, although there are proposals to do so.