Nasas first asteroid sample collector arrives at target

Nasas first asteroid sample collector arrives at target

NASA's spacecraft will spend two years flying alongside Bennu at a distance of almost 12 kilometres from the object, regularly making physical contact to collect two kilograms of samples from the massive space rock.

After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft arrived Monday at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years. Osiris-Rex will then extend its robot arm to snatch a sample of Bennu's terrain in a "touch-and-go" maneuver set for July 2020.

Later this year, OSIRIS-REx will tighten its path around Bennu to enter into a stable orbit of the asteroid. OSIRIS-REx will be done with its science mission at that point.

That won't happen until 2023 though, so we're in for a bit of a wait to see material from the early days of our solar system. "We've been preparing for this moment for years, and we're ready", emphasized mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona at Tucson. As you approach the machine to the asteroid first began showing the first hints of the shape of the asteroid, and soon details surface, it was found that Bennu is similar to the asteroid (162173) Ryugu, who is now studying automatic station "Hayabusa-2". This data will be used in the eventual selection of a landing site. The hope is that NASA's probe will be able to collect dust from the surface that could date back to the birth of our solar system, ideally with pristine carbon. Therefore the spacecraft will accomplish a sequence of accurateness operations to maintain the pace with asteroid.

Artist's depiction of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland manages the overall mission.

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The maps will tell the navigation team where to position the spacecraft for the sample pick up, and what areas to avoid with potential hazards, such as boulders that would prevent the TAGSAM arm from reaching the asteroid sample site. Many contain water, organic materials, and metals. On approaching the target, the probe reported in August of this year.

Scientists think Bennu broke off from a larger, carbon-rich asteroid sometime between 700 million and two billion years ago when its parent body, estimated to have been 60 to 130 miles (100 to 200 km) in diameter, was struck by another asteroid in a catastrophic collision. "These observations have revealed an asteroid that is both consistent with our expectations from ground-based measurements and an exceptionally interesting small world".

Now, OSIRIS-REx faces a whole new challenge: exploring the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft.

This meet up, which happened this morning, is the first in a series of planned close encounters between the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) and Bennu. Combining eight separate images taken that day, the mission team released a "super-resolution" photograph of the asteroid. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

"They are everywhere in our solar system".

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