NASIR's OSIRIS-REX arrived today at its target asteroid, Bennu, an important step in its mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to earth.
OSIRIS-REX launched on September 8, 2016 by Cape Canaveral. It carries five data-taking instruments, and scientists hope to learn more about the Origins Solar System and even what resources an asteroid could hold. Today's Milestone Markets are the end of a two-year trip to Benu, and the beginning of a 1.5-year study period.
"It was a long time to come to an end, and we're looking forward to the next chapter of this mission," said Heather Enos, the OSIRIS-REX deputy chief investigator from the University of Arizona, in NASA press video.
Today, scientists burn the engines to place Osiris-Rex safely in his orbit around Benno, 7 kilometers from the asteroid at the closest approach. The spacecraft has undertaken maneuvers since the summer to change its speed and prepare it for the approach and arrival.
Orbiting asteroids (and rendezvousing with them) is not easy-the rocks have very little gravity, and some asteroids-orbiting missions have to run in issues. Beno will be the smallest astronomical object ever orbited by a spacecraft; It is only around 487.68m from end to end, on average.
"The low-gravity environment is one of the major projects in conducting this mission," said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a NASA video. Even the sun's energy heating the spacecraft can change its trajectory.
Asteroids are of extreme interest to scientists. They have thought to contain an unregulated record of the Free Solar System, and they could be the way that some of the earth's water arrived at our planet in the first place.
That water or the asteroid's metals can one day serve as useful resources, so space explorers would not need to bring the hard materials with them. And Bennu's orbit makes it a "potentially hazardous" asteroid, meaning it's great and could possibly threaten the earth in the distant future, so scientists hope to further characterize it.
Scientists look forward to having some real bats of asteroid back here on earth to analyze. "I am particularly excited about the moment when the template will be retrieved," Nida Abru, Associate Professor of Geoscience and Mathematics in Penn State Doubs, tells Gizmodo. "We only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding asteroids." Abu hopes that Bennu will discover a variety of different materials and terrains, while also offering a safe location for the country.
OSIRIS-REX is NASA's first asteroid pattern return mission, and the largest sample return since Apollo returns Moon Rocks. It will be sincere snatch up to 2 kilograms of material. It is not the first asteroid pattern to return, though – the first "troubling" hayabusa mission of Japan brought about 1,500 petroleum grains of asteroids after heavy difficulties.
His predecessor, Hayabusa 2, is in the middle of his own mission to join another asteroid, Ryuu.
The assisters team will now map the asteroid in very fine detail and measure its load. This will help them determine the future orbits and where it is an asteroid to collect the sample, Coralie Adams, OSIRIS-REX flight navigator, said in the NASA press event.
The spacecraft is sliced to return to Earth in September 2023.