NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives at Asteroid Bennu

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives at Asteroid Bennu

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

The spacecraft carrying OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu early Monday, after its launch more than two years ago.

Yesterday (Dec. 3), NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe sidled up to its diamond-shaped target, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, ending a deep-space chase that lasted 27 months and covered more than 1.25 billion miles (2 billion kilometers).

NASA aired live coverage of its arrival starting at 11:45 a.m. ET, shortly before the spacecraft began the 20-second burn that put it on the right trajectory around the asteroid.

It will spend nearly a year surveying the asteroid with five scientific instruments with the goal of selecting a location that is safe and scientifically interesting to collect the sample and return it to Earth in September 2023. If it collided with Earth, Bennu would probably cause a crater. The data will also help scientists choose where OSIRIS-REx will reach down with its robotic arm and scoop up regolith - rocks and dust - from Bennu's surface.

The Canadian Space Agency's OLA (OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter) will provide high-resolution topography of Bennu, while the OTES (thermal emission spectrometer) developed by Arizona State University will collect infrared spectral data to map mineral composition and temperature distribution.

In 2021, it will be time for the spacecraft to essentially turn around and begin its two-year journey home. Osiris-Rex in 2016 embarked on a never done before mission.

Kohli or bust: Pujara says India is no one-trick pony
If we play six right-handers, they will play Ravindra Jadeja who is another good bowler. Both Steve Smith and David Warner have plundered big scores against India.

The sampler head is stored in the Sample-Return Capsule (SRC) and OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth.

Instead, Bennu's orbit waltzes between those of Earth and of Mars, averaging around 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) away from the sun. This is the first NASA mission with the aim of returning an asteroid sample.

"But this is all dependent on the outcome of a very close approach that Bennu has with Earth in September 2135", Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer with Nasa's Science Mission Directorate said, as cited by the Telegraph.

"We know from having studied Bennu through Earth- and space-based telescopes that it is a carbonaceous, or carbon-rich, asteroid". "This successful test shows that, when the time comes, TAGSAM is ready to reach out and tag the asteroid". Carbon is the key to the organic molecules needed for life, so finding organic molecules on a sample from Bennu would help to answer a big question about the origin of life.

Studying the sample in terrestrial labs, scientists hope to uncover clues about the birth of the planets and the origins of Earth's water and life. "We work together to understand the history of the solar system".

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.

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