NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Down on Asteroid Bennu in Historic Sample Attempt

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touched down on asteroid Bennu on Tuesday to nab a sample of dirt to return to Earth.

“The asteroids are like time capsules, floating in space, that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said during a Monday news conference, the New York Times reported.

— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 20, 2020

By studying the rock and dirt samples from Bennu, NASA hopes to obtain a deeper understanding of how the solar system formed around 4.5 billion years ago and how to prevent asteroid collisions with Earth.

“Everything I’ve worked on has been focused on this day, getting the spacecraft down to contact the asteroid and collect the sample,” Dr. Dante Lauretta, a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona and the mission’s leader, told CNBC.

— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 20, 2020

OSIRIS-REx will hopefully collect at least 2 ounces of material to send back to Earth.

NASA is expected to hold a news conference Wednesday to share early images from the maneuver, which will determine if the sampling attempt was successful. However, researchers will only know how much dirt was collected after comparing the spacecraft’s mass before and after the maneuver. This analysis is expected to take about 10 days, which means the maneuver’s outcome won’t be determined until at least late October, Space.com explained.

​Researchers at NASA announced they had chosen a site on Bennu at which to land the spacecraft in December 2019, three years after the craft was launched in September 2016. Since arriving at Bennu in December 2018, the spacecraft has been observing the asteroid and recording when it spews debris from its surface into space.

Sputnik

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