Science

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft efficiently touches asteroid

Summary

CAPE CANAVERAL: A NASA spacecraft descended to an asteroid Tuesday and, dodging boulders the scale of buildings, momentarily touched the floor to gather a handful of cosmic rubble for return to Earth. It was a primary for america — solely […]

CAPE CANAVERAL: A NASA spacecraft descended to an asteroid Tuesday and, dodging boulders the scale of buildings, momentarily touched the floor to gather a handful of cosmic rubble for return to Earth.
It was a primary for america — solely Japan has scored asteroid samples.
“I can not imagine we really pulled this off,” stated lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the College of Arizona. “The spacecraft did every part it was presupposed to do.”

The Osiris-Rex spacecraft despatched again affirmation of its contact with asteroid Bennu greater than 200 million miles away, drawing cheers from the mission crew.
However it could possibly be every week earlier than scientists know the way a lot, if something, was grabbed and whether or not one other strive might be wanted. If profitable, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.
Following instructions despatched effectively upfront by floor controllers close to Denver, the spacecraft took Four 1/2 hours to make its approach down from its tight orbit round Bennu.
Bennu’s gravity was too low for Osiris-Rex to land — the asteroid is simply 510 metres throughout. Consequently, the spacecraft needed to attain out with its 3.4-meter robotic arm and try and seize no less than 60 grams of Bennu.

The College of Arizona’s Heather Enos, deputy scientist for the mission, described it as “kissing the floor with a brief touch-and-go measured in simply seconds”” At Mission Management for spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin, controllers on the TAG Staff — for touch-and-go — wore royal blue polo shirts and black masks with the mission patch. The coronavirus pandemic had resulted in a two-month delay.
Tuesday’s operation was thought-about essentially the most harrowing a part of the mission, which started with a launch from Cape Canaveral again in 2016.
A van-sized spacecraft with an Egyptian-inspired identify, Osiris-Rex aimed for a spot equal to a couple parking areas on Earth in the midst of the asteroid’s Nightingale Crater. After almost two years orbiting Bennu, the spacecraft discovered this location to have the largest patch of particles sufficiently small to be swallowed up.
After figuring out that the coast was clear, Osiris-Rex closed within the remaining few metres for the sampling. The spacecraft was programmed to shoot out pressurized nitrogen gasoline to fire up the floor, then suck up any free pebbles or mud. Contact was anticipated to final a mere 5 seconds to 10 seconds, with the spacecraft rapidly backing away.

By the point flight controllers heard again from Osiris-Rex, the motion already occurred 18 1/2 minutes earlier, the time it takes radio indicators to journey every approach between Bennu and Earth.
Scientists need between 2 ounces (60 grams) and Four kilos (2 kilograms) of Bennu’s black, crumbly, carbon-rich materials — thought to comprise the constructing blocks of our photo voltaic system. NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, likened Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: “one thing that is on the market and tells the historical past of our complete Earth, of the photo voltaic system, over the last billions of years.” One other profit: Bennu has a slight probability of smacking Earth late within the subsequent century, though not as a show-stopping life-ender. The extra scientists know in regards to the paths and properties of probably hazardous house rocks like this one, the safer we’ll all be.
Osiris-Rex could make as much as three touch-and-go maneuvers in case it comes up brief. No matter what number of tries it takes, the samples will not return to Earth till 2023 to shut out the USD 800-plus million quest. The pattern capsule will parachute into the Utah desert.
“That might be one other large day for us. However that is completely the foremost occasion of the mission proper now,” NASA scientist Lucy Lim stated.
Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission — within the milligrams at most — to land within the Australian desert in December.
NASA, in the meantime, plans to launch three extra asteroid missions within the subsequent two years, all one-way journeys.

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