A decade from now, a huge potentially hazardous asteroid, named after the ancient Egyptian deity of evil and destruction, will whizz by the Earth with a one in 45,000 chance of hitting our planet.
NASA has already begun preparations for the impending arrival of asteroid 99942 Apophis, also known as the “God of Chaos”, which will pass within 31,000 kilometres of Earth’s surface on 13 April 2029.
God of Chaos
Set, also known as Seth and Suetekh, was the Egyptian god of war, chaos and storms, brother of Osiris, Isis, and Horus the Elder, uncle to Horus the Younger, and brother-husband to Nephthys. His other consort was the goddess Tawaret, a hippo-headed deity who presided over fertility and childbirth. He is one of the first five gods created by the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. His name is usually translated as “instigator of confusion” and “destroyer” and he was associated with disorder, foreign lands and people, and the color red.
Roughly the size of four football fields (approx 340 meters across), if the space rock were to hit Earth, it would smash us with the force of 15,000 nuclear weapons detonating simultaneously.
However, Musk rightly cautions that the entire Apophis narrative is a little overblown: during its close flyby in 2029, the asteroid will come within 37,600km (23,363 miles) of our planet, just a tenth of the distance between Earth and the Moon. Scary but not quite apocalyptic.
The scientists suggest while it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute when it screams past Earth on April 13, 2029, the giant asteroid will more likely provide a magnificent spectacle for stargazers than the doom of all life on Earth.
While NASA scientists have been preparing to study the giant rock as it swings past Earth, one particular space connoisseur has been unfazed by the issue.
Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company CEO, took to Twitter to reassure his pal, podcast host Joe Rogan, who had retweeted an article about the “God of Chaos” that 99942 Apophis was not a subject of concern – for now.
In fact, NASA and Musk’s SpaceX are working together on the space agency’s first spacecraft impact asteroid redirect mission, which will be a key test before the actual need to protect the planet from a giant rock approaching the planet.
Under the so-called Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which is scheduled for June 2021, one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will launch in the direction of asteroid 65803 Didymos (or “Didymain”) and its tiny satellite Didymoon to see if it could redirect the rock from its intended path. To that end, the space agency has paid $69 million to Musk’s venture.
Aside from this, NASA announced earlier this year that it had teamed up with international partners to perform a “tabletop exercise” on how to handle a hypothetical asteroid on a collision course with Earth.