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NASA spacecraft Osiris-Rex arrives at historic asteroid

“Relieved, proud, and anxious to start exploring!” tweeted lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.

This Nov. 16, 2018, picture present by NASA exhibits the asteroid Bennu. After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft has arrived on the historic asteroid Bennu, its first customer in billions of years.Credit:NASA

With Bennu greater than 130 million kilometres away, it took seven minutes for phrase to get from the spacecraft to flight controllers at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado. The firm constructed the spacecraft there.

Bennu is estimated to span simply over 500 metres throughout. Researchers will present a extra exact description at a scientific assembly subsequent Monday in Washington.

About the scale of an SUV, the spacecraft will shadow the asteroid for a 12 months, earlier than scooping up some gravel for return to Earth in 2023.

Scientists are keen to check materials from a carbon-rich asteroid like darkish Bennu, which might maintain proof relationship again to the start of our photo voltaic system four.5 billion years in the past. As such, it is an astronomical time capsule.

A Japanese spacecraft, in the meantime, has been hanging out at one other near-Earth asteroid since June, additionally for samples. It is Japan’s second asteroid mission. This newest rock is known as Ryugu and about double the scale of Bennu.

Ryugu’s specks ought to be right here by December 2020, however can be far lower than Osiris-Rex’s promised booty.

Osiris-Rex goals to gather no less than 60 grams of mud and gravel from Bennu. The spacecraft will not land, however somewhat use a Three-metre mechanical arm in 2020 to momentarily contact down and vacuum up particles. The pattern container would break unfastened and head towards Earth in 2021.

The assortment – parachuting right down to Utah – would symbolize the largest cosmic haul because the Apollo astronauts hand-delivered moon rocks to Earth within the late 1960s and early 1970s.

NASA has introduced again comet mud and photo voltaic wind particles earlier than, however by no means asteroid samples. Japan managed to return some tiny particles from its first asteroid mission.

Both Bennu and Ryugu are thought-about probably hazardous asteroids. That means they might smack Earth years from now. At worst, Bennu would carve out a crater throughout a projected shut name 150 years from now.

Scientists contend the extra they study asteroids, the higher geared up Earth can be in heading off a really catastrophic strike.

The $US800 million Osiris-Rex mission started with a 2016 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.


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