NASA has launched an asteroid-sampling spacecraft bound for an asteroid 1,200 million miles away.
The OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe, designated as the most detailed on-orbit asteroid sample collection mission in history, launched at 9:05 a.m. ET on Friday (October 26). It is now heading toward the asteroid Bennu and is expected to arrive on December 3, 2018.
Bennu is an asteroid that measures about 95 miles across, and was discovered by astronomers in 1999. Its status as an asteroid is not entirely clear, because it is not a full asteroid, according to NASA. And NASA’s last attempt to grab asteroid samples and return them to Earth in 2016, which was based on a previous asteroid collision, ended unsuccessfully.
Once the OSIRIS-REx sample sample collects make contact with Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will dive into the asteroid’s surface. In 2019, a small chip will be drilled into the surface, and then over the next two years, a laser and imaging system will perform a period of close observation to measure the asteroid’s velocity. The sample sampling will take place two years after that.
Once the sample collection is completed, OSIRIS-REx will study the asteroid and will eventually return the collected samples to Earth by 2023.
Asteroids are thought to have an important role in planetary protection, as many of the fiftieth-century space-rock fragments are known to have landed near our surface. The Oyo and Ryugu asteroids are particularly interesting because one of them could be heading for Earth in five years, and the other is hypothesized to have an impact date of about 30,000 years ago.
The AU Stake Out mission of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is done and the satellite is in orbit. The clock is ticking, and the spacecraft will soon learn what it’s made of. pic.twitter.com/GOOxa4KxjW — OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 26, 2018
Read the full story at BBC News.
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