NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives at Asteroid Bennu | Space Exploration

06 December, 2018, 15:47 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • NASA Probe Reaches Asteroid Bennu Ready to Collect Samples

"It's been a long time coming for the arrival, and we're really looking forward to the next chapter of this mission", Heather Enos, the OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator from the University of Arizona, said in a NASA press video.

Asteroids may have played a role in the origins of life here on Earth by delivering organic molecules to our planet in its early days. Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals.

Accordingly, NASA wants to know exactly what Bennu - and asteroids like it - are composed of, should future engineers have to use lasers or still-unknown technology to deflect the ominous space rock away from our planet. "Now we're at it again, working with our partners in the USA and Canada to accomplish the Herculean task of bringing back to Earth a piece of the early solar system".

To counteract the influence of the sun, Adam and her colleagues will fly over Bennu's "terminator" line, where day turns to night on the asteroid's surface.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx arrived today at its target asteroid, Bennu, an important step on its mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx will spend the next year in orbit around its target before dropping down briefly so it can get close enough to scoop up a sample of dirt and rock from the surface.

OSIRIS-REx will slowly approach Bennu, at a speed of only 0.2 meters per second. These maneuvers also targeted a trajectory to set up Monday's maneuver, which initiates the first north pole flyover and marks the spacecraft's arrival at Bennu.

With gravity so weak, other factors could potentially knock OSIRIS-REx off course. "Initial data from the approach phase show this object to have exceptional scientific value". "We have arrived!" he called out moments later. A rock which formed in the early solar system and has been preserved by the vacuum of space, Bennu has remained relatively unchanged since its creation.

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Osiris-Rex will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert, USA in September 2023.

Scientists say that material from a carbon-rich asteroid such as Bennu could hold evidence that dates back to the beginning of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

That is correct. Currently the estimate is we anticipate a 1 in 2700 chance of it hitting the Earth in about 150 or 160 years from now.

The spacecraft won't land on the asteroid but will use a mechanical arm to reach out and gather up around 60g of asteroid material. "Now we embark on gaining experience flying our spacecraft about such a small body". In February 2019, the spacecraft begins efforts to globally map Bennu to determine the best site for sample collection. So, once it has picked the likeliest spot and safest place to find some of these materials, the spacecraft will extend the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) - a 3.35-meter (11 ft) robotic arm - and grab a handful of matter from the surface. OSIRIS-REx is expected to arrive back home in September 2023.

Ryugu's specks should be here by December 2020 but will be far less than Osiris-Rex's promised booty.

But there's still a lot to learn about the object, said University of Arizona Planetary Scientist Bashar Rizk, who oversees three of OSIRIS-REx's cameras. The returned samples will be curated by the Johnson Space Center's ARES laboratory and a center in Japan.

OSIRIS-REx and its instruments.

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