Cape Canaveral, Sep 23, 2017:NASA’s asteroid-chasing spacecraft is swinging by Earth on its way to a space rock.
Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex will pass within about 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) of the home planet Friday afternoon. It will use Earth’s gravity as a slingshot to put it on a path toward the asteroid Bennu.
If all goes well, Osiris-Rex should reach the small, roundish asteroid next year and, in 2020, collect some of its gravel for return to Earth.
Friday’s close approach will occur over Antarctica. It will be a quick hello: The spacecraft will speed by at about 19,000 mph (31,000 kph). NASA has taken precautions to ensure Osiris-Rex does not slam into any satellites. Ground telescopes, meanwhile, have been trying to observe the spacecraft while it’s in the neighborhood.
A U.S. astronaut said on Thursday she had full confidence in the safety of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket that will blast a three-person crew into space next month in the first such launch since a rocket failure.
Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and U.S. and Canadian astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are due to embark for the International Space Station on Dec. 3 after a similar launch on Oct. 11 ended in an emergency landing.
Two minutes into that launch, a rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague to abort their mission and hurtle back to Earth in a capsule that landed in the Kazakh steppe. The two were unharmed.
Speaking at a news conference in Star City near Moscow, McClain said that occasional failures were inevitable, but that the mishap with the Soyuz-FG in October had demonstrated the reliability of its emergency safety mechanisms.
“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said at the conference also attended by her colleagues Kononenko and Saint-Jacques.
“A lot of people called it an accident, or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of it not being safe, but for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home,” McClain told reporters.
Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet era-cosmodrome at Baikonur from where McClain, Saint Jacques and Kononenko are due to launch.
Ahead of their mission, an unmanned rocket carrying cargo is due to launch on Nov 16. in what will be the first Soyuz-FG take-off from Baikonur since the mishap. (VOA)