Osiris-Rex: Nasa probe arrives at Asteroid Bennu

04 December, 2018, 08:10 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Watch NASA live stream the arrival of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe

Contact with Bennu will not significantly change its orbit or make it more unsafe to Earth, Lauretta stressed.

A live NASA broadcast of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's formal arrival begins at 11:45 am (1645 GMT).

'We have arrived, ' technicians announced, spurring high-fives and clapping around the control room.

This enabled Osiris-Rex to match Bennu's velocity through space, and bring it to about 7km from the rock at closest approach.

The OSIRIS-REx mission and NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, now closing in on a denizen of the Kuiper Belt a billion miles past Pluto, are both aimed at studying primitive bodies left over from the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

"Osiris-Rex" ultimate goal is to bring back a regolith sample of at least 2.1 ounces.

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.

Osiris-Rex will then extend its robot arm to snatch a sample of Bennu's terrain in a " touch-and-go" manoeuvre set for July 2020.

In August, the craft snapped its first image of asteroid Bennu.

"OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from?"

The craft also captured a look at Earth and moon in their "orbital dance" back in January.


Osiris-Rex will help scientists understand how heat radiated from the sun is gently steering Bennu on an increasingly menacing course through the solar system.

OSIRIS-REx's approach surveys of asteroid Bennu This montage includes images from two full rotation surveys of asteroid Bennu by OSIRIS-REx on 25 and 27 November.

"The TAGSAM exercise is an important milestone, as the prime objective of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to return a sample of Bennu to Earth", said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Scientists say the ancient asteroid could hold clues to the origin of life. Scientists think it might be older than the Solar System itself, which is about 4.6 billion years ago.

The OSIRIS-REx, after some moments of drama caused by the explosion of a Falcon 9 on a nearby launch pad and some quick work to ensure that this incident would not cause a loss of cooling capability to the spacecraft on its launch pad, launched successfully on September 8, 2016, at 7:05 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

The Osiris-Rex (which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) is due to return the sample to Earth in September 2023.

Lots of spacecraft have cameras and spectrometers, and laser altimeters are becoming more common, but the main focus of OSIRIS-REx is sample-return.

Meanwhile, the sample will plummet back down to Earth in what looks like a tiny Apollo capsule, landing somewhere in the Utah desert to be collected by curious NASA scientists.

"We know from having studied Bennu through Earth- and space-based telescopes that it is a carbonaceous, or carbon-rich, asteroid". Carbon is the hinge upon which organic molecules hang. This means that the components that make up the asteroid could represent the state of the materials that formed the planets.

Once Osiris is ready to collect a sample, it will drop down closer to Bennu and hover over the surface like a hummingbird, with only its mechanical arm getting close enough to touch the asteroid. There is enough nitrogen gas for three sampling attempts, and once enough material is gathered, the sampling device will be deposited in the Sample Return Capsule. These microscopic grains of dust could be the same ones that spewed from dying stars and eventually coalesced to make the Sun and its planets almost 4.6 billion years ago'.

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