After 6 years and a distance of more than 320 million km, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to return to Earth from the primitive asteroid Bennu.
In less than a year, on September 24, 2023, the mission’s canister containing samples of asteroid rocks and dust will be dropped onto the Earth’s surface as the spacecraft flies to its next location. At this week’s American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Chicago, planetary scientists discussed upcoming activities regarding the samples brought back by the OSIRIX-REx probe.
Simulation of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting asteroid samples.
Simulation of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting asteroid samples. (Photo: NASA).
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched in 2016 and spent nearly 3 years exploring Bennu, an ancient asteroid whose orbit crosses Earth. This asteroid constitutes a particularly interesting target for both science and planetary defense. Bennu is a type of asteroid that has not changed much since its formation, making it an intact specimen from the early days of the solar system. However, due to its orbit crossing Earth, Bennu also poses a threat to humanity. Understanding its nature is important for moving the asteroid away from Earth’s flight path on future missions.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft orbits Bennu, collecting photos and other data about the asteroid, then approaches the surface to use its arm to retrieve small samples. The device is called TAGSAM This resulted in the collection of 150 to 350 g of asteroid material, far exceeding the expected 60 g. In fact, TAGSAM absorbed so much material that rubble began to spill out of the containment chamber.
From entry into the Earth’s atmosphere to contact with the ground in a flat area of Utah, the sample capsule’s journey took just 13 minutes. The top priority after the capsule lands is to immediately take it to a sterile room to ensure the sample is not contaminated with earth dust. In a few days, the sample will be airlifted to its final storage location, the Johnson Space Center, for further study.
75% of the samples will be preserved for future scientists and the remaining 25% will be analyzed and classified by the OSIRIS-REx mission team. Preliminary results of the analysis will be announced on October 2, 2023. Although the sample was on its way back to Earth, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft itself simply jettisoned the capsule before continuing to fly toward the inner solar system on an extended mission to the asteroid Apophis.
The spacecraft will not collect additional samples but will observe the asteroid closely. OSIRIS-REx will arrive at its destination just a week before flying extremely close to Earth and studying the asteroid for about 18 months.
Article source: VnExpress
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After 6 years and approximately 320 million km, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will return to Earth from the proto-asteroid Bennu. In less than a year, the…