Science

Rex Mission Arrives At Asteroid Bennu After 2 Years

Rex Mission Arrives At Asteroid Bennu After 2 Years”

The spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu on December 31 -thus making Bennu, which is only about 1,600 feet (492 meters) across - or about the length of five football fields - the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft met Bennu on Monday after travelling through space for more than two years and over two billion kilometres, NASA said. The room was utterly silent.

The mission will give vital information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision course with Earth.

The thing that excites me most about the OSIRIS REx mission is the fact that we are literally going to a world that we've never been to before. It is a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid, believed to have been created by the leftovers from the formation of the solar system.

He and his colleagues are also just excited to see Bennu up close for the first time from the operations center at the University of Arizona.

NASA scientists chose 101955 Bennu for the OSIRIS-REx mission because of its unique supply of unadulterated carbonaceous material, one of the building blocks of life.

The amount of samples will be the largest since the Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972 that brought back 382 kilograms of moon rock, pebble and stone samples. Once back on Earth, scientists will be able to study a sample untouched since the early Solar System.

This carbon-rich asteroid could be full of organic molecules, metals, platinum and even water - the essential ingredients for life.

Bennu is considered a potentially hazardous asteroid - it is due to make a close pass of Earth about 150 years.

The $800 million Osiris-Rex mission began with a 2016 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. To their delight, newly acquired close-ups of the asteroid closely match their predictions.

At 500m wide, Bennu is small compared to the 10-15km-wide asteroid that caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs. And touch and go is exactly what the spacecraft must achieve. Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics, Simi Valley, Calif. OSIRIS-REx is an acronym of the mission objectives.

A NASA probe has become the first visitor to drop in on an ancient asteroid in billions of years. This ensures that the solar radiation pressure remains constant, so engineers can make sure they continuously counteract it. Once OSIRIS-REx arrives at Bennu, the craft will stay about 12 miles (20 kilometers) away from the asteroid. The spacecraft executed a maneuver that transitioned it from flying toward Bennu to operating around the asteroid. Video animations of the spacecraft's planned orbits look like an elaborate cosmic ballet. Then it must turn around and retrace its path back home. That makes it a near-Earth asteroid, like the one Japan's Hayabusa-2 mission is now studying. "What is our destiny?" reads NASA's page about the mission objectives. NASA expects to study Bennu over18 months.

Asked how he was feeling at the moment of arrival, principal investigator Dante Lauretta tweeted, "relieved, proud and anxious to start exploring!"



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