OSIRIS-APEX prepares for 1st close solar encounter on way to asteroid Apophis

Two months ago, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe dropped home samples of asteroid Bennu and is now headed on a bonus mission with leftover fuel to yet another space rock. During this extended voyage, the spacecraft will pass within 46.5 million miles (74.8 million kilometers) of the sun’s surface, flying within the orbit of Venus and 25 million miles (40.2 million kilometers) closer to the sun than it was designed to operate.

To prepare the spacecraft for the imminent blast of radiation, this week the mission team is tucking in one of the probe’s two solar panels to provide shade for its the most sensitive instruments. The second panel is positioned to face the sun in order to power the OSIRIS-APEX probe, as it’s now called due to the secondary mission.