Asteroids are thought to be old remnants from the early phases of the solar system’s development. These celestial planets are an intriguing research topic for scientists because they might hold the fundamental components of life.
While studying asteroid fragments that have come to Earth as meteorites has provided researchers with important new information, scientists need samples that are free of terrestrial contamination to evaluate whether or not these space rocks brought the building blocks of life to Earth.
The asteroid BENNU:
Bennu is a tiny, stony asteroid that circles the sun halfway between Earth and Mars. It was found in 1999 and has a diameter of around 500 metres (1,640 feet), which is comparable to the Empire State Building in size. Because of how close to Earth it travels in its orbit, Bennu is categorised as a potentially dangerous asteroid. NASA has launched a mission to study this asteroid.
Related: When will asteroid bennu hit Earth?
A robotic spacecraft built by NASA called OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is intended to explore the asteroid Bennu and gather samples from its surface. OSIRIS-Rex was launched in 2016, arrived at Bennu in 2018 and started studying the asteroid’s surface.
The spacecraft successfully acquired a sample of the asteroid’s regolith (surface material) in October 2020, and is returning back to Earth for additional investigation. The mission aims to provide insights into the origins of the solar system and the building blocks of life, as well as help us better understand the potential threat of asteroid impacts on Earth.
The Return Journey and Touchdown
After seven years in space, this brave mission is set to face one of its greatest difficulties yet: delivering the asteroid sample to Earth while protecting it from heat, vibrations, and earthly pollutants. Following a fruitful mission, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently returning to the planet with a sample it obtained from the asteroid Bennu.
When the spacecraft’s capsule parachute drops down in the Utah desert on September 24th, it will go down in history as the first US mission to bring back an asteroid sample. This enormous project should improve our knowledge of how the solar system formed and assist us in better preparing for any asteroid impacts on Earth.
The Retrieval and Study:
On September 24, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will let go of its sample return capsule, bringing an end to its initial mission. The capsule, which contains around a cup of asteroid Bennu material, will land in a specific location in Utah. To make sure the capsule lands in the intended location, the team is utilising computer models to evaluate navigation plans in various scenarios.
Security measures will be taken at the landing area, and samples will be taken to check for pollutants. The team will get the sample canister ready for transportation to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston once they are inside the portable clean room. A pure sample of Bennu’s substance might reveal important information about how the solar system formed.
Before moving the sample capsule to a new lab to Houston, the crew will practise and improve the recovery techniques once the sample capsule lands in Utah. A quarter of the sample will be analysed by researchers, who will save the remainder for later research. Flight dynamics engineers are examining the trajectory, and the Lockheed Martin rescue team is getting ready.
This summer, crews in Colorado and Utah will practise securely retrieving the capsule while the curation and sample science teams practise their methods. Thanks to thorough training and rehearsed missions, the OSIRIS-REx team has already accomplished extraordinary feats.
The OSIRIS-REx mission is ready to create history by returning with a wealth of samples from the old asteroid Bennu after a more than ten-year voyage. This will not only signal the completion of an outstanding mission, but also the start of a brand-new period in scientific research. Scientists from all over the world are anxiously awaiting access to this priceless material.
The sample, which is anticipated to be roughly a cupful, will reveal priceless insights into the development of our solar system. It’s a significant occasion that marks the completion of many years of laborious study and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in our understanding of the universe.