Two years after launching from Florida, a NASA spacecraft is closing in on an historic asteroid, Bennu, for a pattern of house mud that would reveal clues to the beginning of life within the photo voltaic system.
The spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, has even snapped its first, blurry pic of the cosmic physique, which is in regards to the dimension of a small mountain, about 500 yards (meters) in diameter.
The spacecraft is designed to circle Bennu, and attain out with a robotic arm to “high-five” its floor, then return the pattern it collects to Earth in 2023. The first pictures of Bennu had been taken on August 17 at a distance of 1.four million miles (2.three million kilometres) from the $800 million spacecraft.
“This is the closest we have even been to Bennu,” stated Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator on the University of Arizona, Tucson.
“This is significant in that we are now in the vicinity of the asteroid, closer than we have ever been even during the close approaches of the asteroid to the Earth.”
Bennu was chosen from some 500,000 asteroids within the photo voltaic system as a result of it orbits near Earth’s path across the solar, it’s the proper dimension for the scientific research, and is without doubt one of the oldest asteroids identified to NASA.
Astronomers say it poses a slight danger — a one in 2,700 likelihood — of colliding with Earth in 2135. It can also be a carbon-rich asteroid, the type of cosmic physique that will have delivered life-giving supplies to Earth billions of years in the past.
The OSIRIS-REx mission will not be the first to ever go to an asteroid and try a pattern return — Japan has completed it earlier than and Europe has managed to land on a comet. But it’s the first asteroid-sample-return mission for NASA, and it goals to deliver again the most important pattern ever, on the order of two.1 ounces (60 grams).
The US males who walked on the Moon in the course of the Apollo period of the 1960s and 1970s collected and carried again to Earth 842 kilos (382 kilograms) of moon rocks.
In December, the spacecraft will start an in depth survey of asteroid’s floor, which NASA has outlined as “arrival” on the asteroid. Orbital insertion is anticipated on December 31. The pattern, nevertheless, is not going to be taken till July 2020.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.