Sunday, June 23, 2024

Earth is getting ready to receive its first sample from asteroid “Bennu”.


The capsule is scheduled to land by parachute in the desert of the US state of Utah at 14:55 GMT on Sunday, after about 13 minutes penetrating the atmosphere at 35 times the speed of sound, a seven-year journey.

NASA officials said at a press conference on Friday that the weather forecast is favorable and that the OSIRIS-REx capsule is on schedule to return a sample taken from the surface of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. , without the need to make further changes to the flight path. .

Sandra Freund, a program manager for Lockheed Martin, which designed and built the spacecraft, said mission managers expected a “live” landing at the U.S. Army’s Utah Test and Training Range, west of Salt Lake City.

If successful, the OSIRIS-REx mission will be the third time a sample from an asteroid has been returned to Earth for analysis, after two similar missions by the Japanese space agency in the past 13 years.

The mission is a joint effort between NASA and University of Arizona scientists.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu, which was discovered in 1999 and is classified as a “near-Earth object” because it passes by our planet every six years.

Scientists estimate that the chance of a collision with Earth by the end of the twenty-second century is only one in 2,700.

Asteroid Bennu is only 500 meters in diameter, which is small compared to the catastrophic Cixulup asteroid that hit Earth about 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched in September 2016 and reached the asteroid Bennu in 2018. It then spent nearly two years orbiting the asteroid before getting close enough to extend its robotic arm to its surface on October 20, 2020.

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The spacecraft will depart in May 2021 on a 1.2-billion-mile return trip to Earth.

Once it arrives, the sample will be flown to a “clean room” at the Test Range in Utah for initial testing, then transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where it will be broken down into smaller samples for the benefit of about 200 scientists in 60 laboratories. All over the world.

At the same time, the core of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is expected to explore another near-Earth asteroid.

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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