It’s been more than six months since NASA’s Osiris Rex spacecraft descended into the asteroid between and touched the surface for a moment to collect the necessary samples.
There is definitely enough material
Implementation of the entire project began in September 2016 with the launch of the probe that arrived in Ben at the beginning of December 2018 after a two-year journey. Then OSIRIS-REx scanned the body and prepared to complete the main task, sampling.
The Associated Press recalls, last year, after the test approached the object, the probe made a successful maneuver on October 21 by gaining enough material from the asteroid’s surface.
According to the Guardian, Dante Loretta, the lead scientist on the project, estimates that the probe could have obtained 200 to 400 grams of samples, mostly small pieces, which is much more than at least 60 grams.
Last October, the US Space Agency completed the removal of at least 60 grams of dust and rocks, although initially reports were received that some of the material removed from the asteroid’s surface had fallen out of the device.
As for the current “Road Home”, the device was about 300 kilometers from between when its main engine went into operation at 22:00 CET on Sunday and headed to Earth. He managed to take one last picture.
The last image of asteroid Bennu from the Osiris Rex spacecraft.
At NASA’s control center, employees burst into cheers when data came from the spacecraft confirming the ignition of the engine, about a quarter of an hour after the scheduled departure.
Water was on the mother’s body from which Bennu came
Scientists are very interested in the material from Benn, as it will allow them to see which chemicals and rocks the asteroid contains. In the distant past, similar cosmic bodies, upon colliding with Earth, brought with them organic materials essential to the origin of life.
In addition to the sampling mechanism, OSIRIS-REx is also equipped with camera systems, laser altimeter and other equipment.
A few days after reaching Ben, the probe reported traces of water on the body. She discovered this through spectroscopy measurements as she approached the asteroid. The instruments showed that the asteroid contains molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the form of hydroxyls, which are groups of one hydrogen atom with one oxygen atom.
Experts believe that these hydroxyl groups are present in the minerals of aquifer mud, which means that Benno’s body was once in contact with water. The asteroid itself is too small to host water, so it is assumed that the water was on the parent body that Bennu came from.
Another target: Apophis
NASA said in January that scientists were considering another mission for the probe when it provided samples from between. According to them, the most famous asteroid Apophis could be a new target when it approaches Earth in eight years.
If the plan is approved, Osiris Rex will arrive in the body in April 2029, roughly a week after the asteroid skips Earth on a space scale, according to astronomers. It should slide around 31,900 km. This is ten times closer than the moon’s orbit around our planet.
According to the team’s ideas, the probe was advancing similarly to Benn. You will make progressive notes as you get close, and eventually, revolve around the body.
Osiris Rex in September 2023 – as was the case last December when samples were transported from the asteroid Ryugu by the Japanese probe Hagabusa 2 – scientists will only send a small capsule with samples from Ben, which will land in the desert in Utah, United States.
The spacecraft would then have “free hands” to undertake a possible next mission to other destinations – at least to the Apophis module.