The spaceship Nasa Osiris-Rex lands on the asteroid Bennu to collect dust asteroids

ONE NASA The spaceship has successfully landed on an asteroid, dodging boulders the size of buildings to collect a handful of cosmic debris on Earth for analysis.

The space agency team behind the Osiris Rex project said preliminary data showed the sampling went as planned and that the spacecraft lifted off the surface of the asteroid Bennu.

“I can’t believe we actually did it,” said senior scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. “The spaceship did everything it was supposed to do.”

Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated, saying, “We are on our way to return the largest sample brought home from space since Apollo. If all goes well, this sample will be examined by scientists for generations to come. “

The Osiris Rex spaceship returned confirmation of its brief contact with the asteroid Bennu, more than 322 m away, and cheered the mission team. However, it could be a week before scientists know how much, if anything, was taken and whether another attempt is needed. If successful, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.

The US mission What follows is a run of Japan called Hayabusa2, which is due to return to Earth in December and contains samples from the 4.5 billion year old asteroid Ryugu. When it lands in the Australian desert, it will be the first underground asteroid sample to return to Earth.

On Bennu, it took the Osiris Rex spacecraft four and a half hours to get to the surface from its narrow orbit, according to commands sent well in advance from ground controllers near Denver.

The sampling arm of the Osiris Rex spacecraft is tested during a sample landing on the surface of the asteroid Bennu. Photo: AP
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Since the asteroid is only 510 meters wide, Bennu’s gravity was too low for Osiris-Rex to land. As a result, the spaceship had to grab at least 60 grams of Bennu with its 3.4 meter long robotic arm.

Heather Enos of the University of Arizona, assistant scientist for the mission, described it as “kissing the surface with a quick touch-and-go, measured in just a few seconds”.

The coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a two-month delay. Tuesday’s operation was considered the most terrifying part of the mission, which began with a launch from Cape Canaveral in 2016.

Osiris-Rex, a van-sized spacecraft, was aimed at a space equivalent to some parking spaces on Earth in the center of the asteroid’s nightingale crater. After nearly two years of orbiting Bennu, the spaceship found that this place had the largest speck of particles small enough to be swallowed.

After determining that the coast was clear, Osiris-Rex closed the last few meters for sampling. The spaceship was programmed to shoot out pressurized nitrogen gas to stir the surface and then vacuum up any loose pebbles or dust.

Scientists want between 2 ounces (60 grams) and 4 pounds (2 kg) of Bennu’s black, crumbly, carbon-rich material that is believed to contain the building blocks of our solar system.

A mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu, captured by the Osiris-Rex spaceship from a distance of 15 miles.
A mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu, captured by the Osiris-Rex spaceship from a distance of 15 miles. Photo: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / EPA

Thomas Zurbuchen, the head of the NASA science mission, compared Bennu to the Rosetta Stone, “something that is out there and tells the story of our entire earth, the solar system over the last billions of years.”

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Another perk: Bennu has a slim chance of hitting Earth by the end of the next century, if not as a breathtaking lifesaver. The more scientists know about the pathways and properties of potentially dangerous space rocks like this, the better. Osiris-Rex can carry out up to three touch-and-go maneuvers if it comes up short. Regardless of how many trials are required, the samples will not return to Earth until 2023 to complete the $ 800 million quest. The sample capsule will parachute into the Utah desert.

“It’s going to be another big day for us. But this is absolutely the main event of the mission right now, ”said NASA scientist Lucy Lim.

Meanwhile, NASA plans to launch three more asteroid missions in the next two years, all of them one-way trips.

With Associated Press

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