NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, now OSIRIS-APEX, will study Apophis, named after an ancient Egyptian god of chaos. In about 5 ½ years, around April 13, 2029, Apophis will come very close to Earth, just 20,000 miles away. OSIRIS-APEX will orbit Apophis for 18 months, aided by Earth’s gravity. Its mission is to explore and protect Earth from asteroids. Unlike before, it won’t collect Apophis samples but will use gas thrusters to study dust and rocks. Comparing Apophis to the asteroid Bennu helps us understand stony asteroids and their Earth impact risks, boosting our safety.

The person in charge of OSIRIS-APEX, Dani DellaGiustina, says that Apophis is a famous asteroid. We used to worry it might hit Earth in 2029, but now we know it won’t. Still, it will come very close—closer than any asteroid like it in recent times. In 2029, people in Europe and Africa will see Apophis without any special tools. We’ll watch Apophis closely to learn more about where it goes, what it looks like, and how it moves, all to keep Earth safe from asteroids in the future.