US spacecraft diving to asteroid for rare rubble grab

In this news, we discuss the US spacecraft diving to asteroid for rare rubble grab.

A NASA spacecraft descended to the surface of an asteroid 200 million miles away on Tuesday to collect a handful of rubble for return to Earth. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft emerged from orbit around asteroid Bennu just in time, embarking on a 4.5-hour dive on the rough, boulder-covered face of ancient space rock.

It was the first American attempt to collect samples from an asteroid, something Japan has already accomplished – twice. Bennu’s gravity was too low for the spacecraft to land – the asteroid is only 510 meters in diameter. As a result, Osiris-Rex must reach out with his 11-foot (3.4-meter) robot arm while dodging building-sized boulders, and attempt to grab at least 60 grams of Bennu.

This promised to be the hardest part of the mission, which began with a launch from Cape Canaveral in 2016. “We will only kiss the surface with a short touch and go measured in seconds,” said the ‘Heather Enos University of Arizona, the mission’s assistant scientist.

A van-sized spacecraft with an Egyptian-inspired name, Osiris-Rex was aiming for a spot equivalent to a few parking spots on Earth in the middle of the asteroid’s Nightingale crater. After nearly two years orbiting Bennu, the spacecraft found this location to contain the largest plate of particles small enough to be engulfed. The plan required Osiris-Rex to spray pressurized nitrogen gas to stir the surface, then vacuum up loose pebbles or dust. Contact was to last only 5-10 seconds, with the spacecraft backing up quickly.

NASA won’t know until later this week how much was actually collected – or if the spacecraft got anything. Unlike the unusually rapid descents of Mars – described by NASA as seven minutes of terror – “that’s a lot more than 4.5 hours of mild anxiety,” Enos said on the eve of the big take. “We practiced and rehearsed with the spaceship… so we’ve seen almost all of that already. “Osiris-Rex went down to 40 meters during the last dry run in August.

By the time flight controllers near Denver hear back from Osiris-Rex, the action will have already taken place 18.5 minutes earlier, the time it takes for the radio signals to travel back and forth between Bennu and Earth. Scientists want to get between 2 ounces (60 grams) and 4 pounds (2 kilograms) of Bennu’s carbon-rich black material – believed to contain the building blocks of our solar system.

NASA science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen compared Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: “Something that’s out there and tells the story of our entire Earth, of the solar system, over the last billions of years. ‘years. Osiris-Rex can perform up to three touch-and-go maneuvers in case he is short. Regardless of how many trials are needed, the samples won’t return to Earth until 2023 to close the quest for more than $ 800 million. The sample capsule will be parachuted into the Utah desert. “It will be another big day for us. But it is absolutely the major event of the mission right now, ”NASA scientist Lucy Lim said on Tuesday.

News Highlights:

  • “We’ll only kiss the surface with a brief touch and go measured in seconds,” said Heather Enos of the University of Arizona, the mission’s assistant scientist. A van-sized spacecraft with an Egyptian-inspired name, Osiris-Rex was aiming for a spot equivalent to a few parking spots on Earth in the middle of the asteroid’s Nightingale crater.
  • US spaceship dives into asteroid for rare rubble capture
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