How UCF researchers are helping track asteroid that could one day threaten Earth

The University of Central Florida is about to help make a big landing -- in space.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The University of Central Florida is about to help make a big landing -- in space.

This month, NASA officials announced the location where the agency will land a probe on an asteroid called Bennu that could one day threaten Earth.

UCF researchers have been key in choosing that landing spot.

Content Continues Below

TRENDING NOW:

“The main justification of the mission is that this is a potentially hazardous asteroid, so if we have to deflect an asteroid like Bennu or asteroid like it, we’ll know a lot more about it,” said UCF physics and astronomy professor Dr. Humberto Campins.

Bennu is currently 400 million miles away. By 2135, its path could take it much closer to home.

In 2016, NASA launched the Osiris-Rex mission, and for the last year, the satellite has been circling Bennu, mapping it in order to determine where it will land.

"This asteroid is a lot rockier than we expected. We've had to change our approach and keep the spacecraft safe, but still accomplish our mission,” Campins said.

Campins and his team have helped the Osiris-Rex team, poring over maps and geological scans for a year to pick the perfect landing spot.

The landing is scheduled to happen for a few seconds in summer 2020 to collect a sample of the asteroid.