The OSIRIS-REx / Bennu Meeting Was Two Billion Kilometers in the Making

06 December, 2018, 17:46 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • NASA Probe Reaches Asteroid Bennu Ready to Collect Samples

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.

Bennu is about 1,600 feet (500 meters) in diameter, about the size of a small mountain.

AT 4am on Tuesday, Australia's deep-space* communication experts in Canberra will provide the final contact between NASA and its spacecraft OSIRIS-REx before it arrives at the asteroid* Bennu. This asteroid represents a threat to our planet, because in a hundred years will approach the Earth at a very risky distance, according to the Chronicle.info with reference to TSN. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives Bennu a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199.

"Today has been very exciting, but the true nail-biting moment will be the sample collection".

This close approach, followed by a flyby December 4, up is the first in a series of planned meet ups between the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) and Bennu. This means OSIRIS-REx can match its velocity and touch down briefly.

"We know the burn is occurring", said Javi Cerna, an OSIRIS-REx telecom engineer, during a NASA TV broadcast from Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado. Then, in March 2021, the probe will make its way back to Earth in order to deposit that sample in terrestrial labs.

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Bennu rockets around the sun at 63,000 miles per hour, a bit slower than the Earth's orbital speed, so the craft has been approaching it slowly. Its proximity to us made it a prime target for OSIRIS-REx. Asteroid scientists are eager for "bonanza" of discoveries that await, as one researcher at mission control put it. "Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets". First images of the asteroid from the spacecraft's perspective have appeared as it got closer and closer.

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

CU Boulder scientists have a front row seat today to observe a NASA spacecraft as it arrives at the asteroid Bennu, coming to within 4.5 miles of the space rock. The spacecraft will collect samples from the space rock which could pave the way for an asteroid mining industry, with some of them worth trillions of dollars due to their minerals which are scarce on Earth such as platinum.

By expanding our understanding of asteroids, the mission could also help scientists to better understand the threat that asteroids may pose to humans on Earth. "We'll do this first globally, and from there prioritize two candidate sample sites".

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023. However, OSIRIS isn't returning to Earth, it's just dropping off its precious cargo. It orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.

But to dive into that past, OSIRIS-REx will first need to get close enough to Bennu to snag a sample of the loose, rocky material from its surface in 2020.

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