NASA's latest asteroid target has a wet and wild story


Long before it struck itself, a far, small asteroid called Bennou had a wet, watery start, according to new evidence just announced by NASA.

NASA's OSIRIS-REX spacecraft, which arrived in Bennu on December 3 after a two-year trip, is currently positioned about 12 miles above the surface of the asteroid. It recently sent back data indicates that the asteroid's surface is labeled with clay-like minerals that indicate that parts of the room stand has liquid water at some point in its distant past.

"Bennu" is a very water-rich target, and water is the most interesting and perhaps the most lucrative commodity that you want mine to an asteroid, "Dante Loretta, chief investigator of the Osiris-Rex mission, said at a press conference today .

Water is considered valuable for future missions because it is a potential source of fuel. Maybe my aerosols for water would mean that future missions would not have to rely on the ground for fuel, and could potentially explore further in the solar system.

It is important to note that Benzu may be water-rich, which does not mean there is liquid water on its surface Now. Just over 1.600 feet in diameter, Bennu is currently so small that its surface is not able to support liquid water. Researchers hypothesize that between 800 million and a billion years ago, the Boulder-strewn hip of rubble we know how Bennu is probably a part of a larger asteroid, more than 62 miles in diameter, which would be great enough to support water. Planetary scientists think that the larger body was shattered in a huge collision, leaving smaller pieces like Bennou floating through space in accumulations that resemble massive pillars of rubble.

People working on the project have long been worried that Bennu might have the species of water-rich clays. "Bennu is proving to be just the asteroid that we hope," said Jeff Grosman, a program for the Osiris-Rex mission, said in today's press conference.

The spacecraft got its first message of its target in August of this year, when Bennu is still a distant spec, 1.4 million miles away. In the past few months, the asteroid's surface has come into focus, and researchers now have a much better idea of ​​what it is made of. During this approach, the instruments of the spacecraft picked up readings showing that there are water-rich clays on the surface of Bennu.

"This is really great news and this is a great surprise," Amy Simon, a deputy instructor of the Osiris-Rex mission, said in the press conference.

In addition to the presence of once-wet materials, researchers also announced that they had gathered enough data to create a new, more accurate 3D model of the asteroid's surface.

NASA / Goddard / University of Arizonaa

The model could look tough, but Bennu had hidden depths. Based on the data gathered so far, the researchers estimate that as much as 40 percent of Benno's interior may simply be gapping voids.

OSIRIS-REX will enter Orbita around Bennu on December 31 and will eventually start mapping its surface into detail. The spacecraft will live near Benno for the next few years, sticking around until 2020 when it will contact the asteroid surface, hopefully pick up a pattern before taking its leave in 2021. It is scheduled to return – with which it collects – back to Earth in 2023.

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