In its first major scientific form NASA's OSIRIS-REX spacecraft found water on asteroid Benno. The discovery was made by observations in the Upper Osiris-Rex to the Near Earth asteroid between mid-August and early-December 2018 and confirms previous thoughts that Bennu may be a lot of harboring water in the Inner Solar System.
The discovery also holds significant potential in terms of the material of Bennu Osiris-Rex hopes to return to Earth early next decade. The return of such a water-borne material can help to reinforce or distance scientists from a theory that asteroids ceded earth billions of years ago with the water that now dominates our planet's surface.
An amazing start to the Essential Mission of Osiris-Rex:
Last week, when all eyes were on Osiris-Rex for the architecture of the asteroid bench, mission scientists were completing a multi-month long data comparison between Osiris-Rex (Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security Regulator Explorer) instruments To determine the spectral data shows the presence of water on the kidney ground asteroid.
During the 3.5 month trial of Osiris-Rex to Bennu, missionaries aimed three of the spacecraft to the asteroid and began to make the first scientific observations of the mission.
Of the three instruments, two of the Osiris-Rex spectrometers, the Osiris-Rex Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OWIRS) and the Osiris-Rex Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), demonstrate the presence of molecule with bonded oxygen and hydrogen atoms, known as Hydroxyls – Rivoli a global distribution of water-bearing clay minerals on Benno.
While the discovery of water is not a discovery of liquid water pulling on the surface of Bennu, it is a discovery of water with clay minerals. And since Benno is too small to have ever hosted liquid water on its own, the discovery indicates that the parent body of which Bennu originated – a larger asteroid – has contained liquid water.
In the United States editor. Geophysical Union In the fall of 2018, members of the Osiris-Rex team talked to the fact that a major mission objective was quickly so quickly, but iterated that there is still a lot of work ahead of the mission – which is also tasked with retrieving a Pattern of the surface of Bennu and return that pattern back to earth.
"The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid affirms that Benu, a remnant early on the formation of the solar system, is an excellent pattern for the Osiris-Rex mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics," said Amy Simon, Owrs Deputy Executive Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
"When samples from the material returned by the mission to the Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system."
Get the materials back to Earth will be tricky, but it's something that team and spacecraft are well prepared for.
Starting from the beginning, OSIRIS-REX is designed to not only arrive and fly in formation with Bennu – something that's made on December 3 – but also to enter the orbit of the asteroid (stunning for December 31, 2018), and then touch on its Surface once in 2020.
That touchdown is more of a "docking" than landing, described by the Assyrian-Rex team – will give the force to robotically get a sample of Benno's surface, store it in a sample return container, and bring the sample back to Earth for deeper investigation.
But tighten down on any surface requires a good understanding of the local terrain as well as an ability to see hazards that need to be avoided.
Bennu – Before OSIRIS-REX's launch – is thought to be less altered-as is now understood thanks to a high resolution imaging of the asteroid, imaging which will only get better the closer Osiris-Rex gets to the asteroid.
Based on the nearest observations of Osiris-Rex, we now know that Benno's surface is a mix of its rocky, boulder-filled areas with few relatively smooth regions that lack boulders and that the number of boulders on the surface is higher than expected.
This means that a very detailed survey of Bennu's surface will be needed to determine a safe touchdown space for Osiris-Rex and that the craft will have to be much closer to Bennu before the science teams can accurately assess where a sample Can be taken from the surface.
"Our first data show that the team picked the right asteroid as the purpose of the Osiris-Rex mission." We have not discovered any insurmountable issues at Bennu so far, "said Dante Loretta, Osiris-Rex Chief Investigator at the University of Arizona , Tucson.
To ensure that no issue occurs in the 2020 countdown and sample collection part of the mission, scientists will spend 2019 compiled detailed observations of the surface before choosing a landing site later that same year.
After this place has been chosen, the teams run multiple simulations of the Touchdown sequence – drawing on NASA's experience in ducking spacecraft together. Benzu's low load and poor gravity field make Osiris-Rex's landing more similar to a docking than landing on a surface of the Moon.
OSIRIS-REX's touchdown on Bennou is sliced to drop at some point in 2020, as is the actual collection of the sample to be returned to Earth.
If all goes to design, the sample return will land back on earth in September 2023.