With a robotic presence at Ryugu, JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission is showing what can be done as we subject near-Earth asteroids to scrutiny. We’ll doubtless learn a lot about asteroid composition, all of which can factor into, among other things, the question of how we would approach changing the trajectory of any object that looked like it might come too close to Earth. The case for studying near-Earth asteroids likewise extends to learning more about the evolution of the Solar System.
NASA’s first near-Earth asteroid visit will take place on December 3, when the OSIRIS-REx mission arrives at asteroid Bennu, with a suite of instruments including the OCAMS camera suite (PolyCam, MapCam, and SamCam), the OTES thermal spectrometer, the OVIRS visible and infrared spectrometer, the OLA laser altimeter, and the REXIS x-ray spectrometer. Like Hayabusa2, this mission is designed to collect a surface sample and return it to Earth.