Giant asteroid ‘Bennu’ may hit Earth

A GIANT asteroid could crash into the Earth in the next century and wipe out the human race.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is taking the threat seriously that it will soon launch a probe to prevent the future catastrophe from taking place.

Scientists say the giant asteroid called "Bennu" travels 63,000 miles per hour, weighs over 60 million tons and has the diameter of around 500 meters.

"Bennu" is larger than the Empire State building and has been compared to the destructive asteroid in the blockbuster Hollywood movie "Armageddon."

First discovered in 1999, “Bennu” has been crossing the orbit of the Earth every six years. However, the giant asteroid has been drawing closer throughout the years and could pulverize the Earth in 2135.

"That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu's orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century," Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University, told The Sunday Times. "It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death."

Lauretta explained that if "Bennu" would crash into the Earth, its impact can be compared to the detonation of three billion tons of high explosive.

He added that the damage will be almost similar to the effect of the asteroid that ended almost all life-forms in the planet 66 million years ago.

Saving the Earth

"Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid, an ancient relic from the early solar system that is filled with organic molecules," Lauretta added. "Asteroids like Bennu may have seeded the early Earth with this material, contributing to the primordial soup from which life emerged."

In response to the potential threat, NASA will be sending the Osiris-Rex probe mission to "Bennu" to study the asteroid. The mission will be launched in September and expected to arrive at the asteroid in 2018.

Lauretta, who will be leading the probe mission, said that they will spend a year in "Bennu" to survey its chemical makeup, geologic history and mineralogy. He added that they will also gather rock samples before heading back to Earth.

The principal investigator explained that studying the composition, mass and size of "Bennu" could help the future generations in preventing the massive catastrophe.

He added that it will also help scientists in understanding how the course of the asteroid is affected by the heat of the sun.

The Osiris-Rex probe mission is expected to head back to Earth and land safely in Utah in 2023. (Christian Post)

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