ANTARIKSA — Last weekend, the American Space Agency’s (NASA) OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft successfully sent samples of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. This spacecraft traveled more than 6.2 billion kilometers from Earth to reach the asteroid Bennu and then traveled back to Earth.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft released a sample capsule of the asteroid Bennu when it was around 101,000 km above Earth on Sunday (24/9/2023). The capsule contains about 250 grams of rocks and other materials from Bennu.
It is hoped that samples from the asteroid will help answer several questions about the origins of life on Earth and the early days of our solar system.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in 2016 to study the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx arrived in orbit around Bennu in December 2018.
OSIRIS Rex Helps Protect Earth from the Threat of Asteroid Bennu
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Bennu asteroid sampling mission helps scientists better understand how to protect humanity if the asteroid Bennu’s trajectory intersects with Earth.
Asteroid Bennu was discovered in 1999. Asteroid Bennu is a rare type B asteroid that is rich in carbon material which is believed to contain chemical compounds from the early days of the solar system.
In addition, its orbit makes the 492 meter wide Bennu the most dangerous asteroid in the solar system. Bennu is large enough to cause significant damage to Earth if its orbit collides with Earth’s orbit.
If it hits Earth, the space rock will create a crater several kilometers wide on the Earth’s surface. Apart from that, the impact will also cause an earthquake and shock waves that penetrate the earth’s atmosphere. The impact would likely damage buildings hundreds of miles from the impact site.
Fortunately, the possibility of an asterid hitting planet Earth in the near future is very small. Models of Bennu’s and Earth’s orbital trajectories suggest that the two bodies’ paths will probably intersect in 2182, although this is unlikely to happen.
The chance of a collision that year is only 1 in 2,700. Even if that low chance occurs, engineers and scientists still have plenty of time to figure out how to deal with Bennu.
The data collected by OSIRIS-REx is key to establishing a potential Bennu deflection mission if necessary.
When OSIRIS-REx landed on Bennu to collect its samples in October 2020, the asteroid’s surface responded in an unexpected way.
The mass of gravel in the crater where OSIRIS-REx landed (called Nightingale) almost swallowed the spacecraft. This showed scientists that the surface layer of the asteroid has a very low density.
OSIRIS-REx sank as deep as 50 centimeters into Bennu’s surface before its thrusters were fired.
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