Sunday, 21 April, 2019

The OSIRIS-REx / Bennu Meeting Was Two Billion Kilometers in the Making

Watch NASA live stream the arrival of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrives at asteroid Bennu
Elijah Vega | 06 December, 2018, 15:46

OSIRIS-REx features a total of five instruments that will be used to study the giant space rock. The image, which was taken by the PolyCam camera, shows Bennu at 300 pixels and has been stretched to increase contrast between highlights and shadows. After a couple of flybys, OSIRIS-REx will settle into a steady orbit a few miles above the surface. In October 2018 OSIRIS-REx began a series of braking maneuvers to slow its approach from 1,800 kilometers per hour down to essentially nothing.

NASA is developing a strategy for deflecting Bennu, or any other asteroid found to be on a collision course with Earth, by use of a special spacecraft to slam into the object hard enough to nudge it onto a safer path, said Lindley Johnson, a planetary defense officer with NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

It would be the first-ever asteroid sample return by the U.S. This is called the Hill Sphere, and at that point you can say OSIRIS-REx was "at" the asteroid.

As the craft approaches Bennu, it sends back stunning imagery to NASA.

Bennu is 76m miles (122m km) away so it took seven minutes for word of the success to reach flight controllers at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado, where the spacecraft was built.

Asteroids are of extreme interest to scientists.

About the size of a large vehicle, the spacecraft will shadow the asteroid for a year, before scooping up some gravel for return to Earth in 2023.

Osiris-Rex will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023.

There is also the possibility the asteroid sample could be rich in a valuable material that could be extracted for use on earth.

Watch NASA live stream the arrival of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe

For a sample-return mission, the asteroid has to be the right size.

Ryugu's specks should be here by December 2020, but will be far less than Osiris-Rex's promised booty.

Engineer Tim Linn explains how the Osiris-Rex will suck up asteroid dust.

Osirus Rex is set to bring home the biggest haul of space materials since astronauts hand-delivered moon rocks to Earth in the 1960s and 1970s. The asteroid is thought to be rich in carbon-based organic molecules that date back to the earliest days of the solar system, according to a Reuters report. From September to December the Recon phase will make very detailed surveys of the two sampling sites from as low as 738 feet altitude.

The sample from Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, could help scientists understand not only more about asteroids that could impact Earth but about how planets formed and life began.

This means that there is a cumulative one in 2,700 chance of an Earth impact between 2175 and 2199.

By expanding our understanding of asteroids, the mission could also help scientists to better understand the threat that asteroids may pose to humans on Earth.

"It's been a long time coming for the arrival, and we're really looking forward to the next chapter of this mission", Heather Enos, the OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator from the University of Arizona, said in a NASA press video. Its odometer read 1.2bn miles (2bn km) as of Monday.

But where is that asteroid and its visiting spacecraft, which is now two years into its journey?

Tom Cruise gives lesson in TV settings and 'motion smoothing'
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