Touch-and-go: U.S. spacecraft sampling asteroid for return

  • Touch-and-go: U.S. spacecraft sampling asteroid for return

Touch-and-go: U.S. spacecraft sampling asteroid for return

Next Tuesday, the OSIRIS-REx (origins, spectral interpretation, resource identification, security, regolith explorer) robotic spacecraft will take a sample of an asteroid called 101955 Bennu, and then bring it home - or, at least, upward of 60 grams of it. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on September 8, 2016, and took more than two years to arrive at 101955 Bennu, a diamond-shaped object with a mean diameter of about 1,600 feet, slightly bigger than the Empire State Building. Mike Moreau, NASA's Deputy Project Manager, said. Contact should last five to 10 seconds, just long enough to shoot out pressurized nitrogen gas and suck up the churned dirt and gravel. The pre-programmed spacecraft operates autonomously during an unprecedented touch-and-go maneuver. The ground controller of spacecraft maker Lockheed Martin near Denver is unable to intervene due to an 18-minute radio delay on one way.

Artistic performance of NASA's Osiris Rex spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu. I hope for a sample rich in complex organic compounds that tell stories of how life formed on early Earth, or anywhere else in the solar system, he says.

While NASA has brought back comet dust and solar wind particles, it's never attempted to sample one of the almost 1 million known asteroids lurking in our solar system until now. Meanwhile, Japan expects to get a sample of up to milligrams from the asteroid Ryugu in December 10 years after it recovered the spot from the asteroid Itokawa. A potential source of danger has been identified in the space atmosphere, the asteroid "Bennu" poses an enormous risk to human survival. At a diameter of 1,607 feet, it is the size of the Empire State Building in NY and is said to contain ingredients of life necessary on Earth, making it a recent subject of interest for scientists.

NASA explains asteroids are remnants of "the building blocks that formed" our solar system.

With plenty of ways to participate and learn more about the OSIRIS-REx mission, one can also opt to join in the social media activities to start Monday, Oct. 19 - a day before the spacecraft's actual descent to Bennu.

The solar orbiting asteroid, which shakes the Earth every six years, could be aimed at us later in the next century. Things that we see that are coming toward Earth that could potentially hit us, we have to do some practicing to see if we can actually move an asteroid out of the way. Here's everything to learn more about Osiris-Rex, Bennu and NASA's plan to launch a planet. So the spacecraft was created to ingest small pebbles less than an inch (2 centimetres) across.

Scientists were stunned to find massive rocks and chunky gravel all over the place when the spacecraft arrived in 2018. And pebbles were occasionally seen shooting off the asteroid, falling back and sometimes ricocheting off again in a cosmic game of ping-pong.

With so much rough terrain, the engineers tried to hit a narrower spot than originally expected. The main target, the Nightingale Crater, appears to have the most microscopic particles, but is still rocky, including a rock named Mount Doom.

The team fell behind and bumped the second and final touch-and-go dress rehearsal for the spacecraft to August. This led to an increase in sample collection to October.

"It's hard to return samples", said Thomas Zurbuchen, director of science missions at NASA. "The COVID makes it even more hard". That means you can no longer touch down three times. And there's a chance it will touch down safely, but fail to collect enough rubble. If that were the case, the spacecraft would automatically retract to a height of 16 feet and try again.

With the first try finally here, Lauretta is anxious, nervous, excited "and confident we have done everything possible to ensure a safe sampling".