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NASA’s Asteroid Sampling Probe Captures Image of Earth

During the summer of 2020, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample

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NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has captured an incredible image of the Earth, the media reported.

The image was captured on December 19, 2018, days before Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) went into orbit around Bennu on New Year’s Eve, the Daily Mail reported.

Bennu is the smallest ever celestial body to be orbited by a spacecraft.

The picture shows the asteroid Bennu, top right, about 43 kilometres from the spacecraft, and the Earth and moon, bottom left, more than 110 million kilometres away.

The tiny asteroid — barely 500 meters across — appears as a big bright blob in the long-exposure photo released last week, the report said.

Launched from Florida in 2016, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached Bennu on December 3, 2018 after travelling more than one billion miles through space. The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the space rock from orbit.

On January 1, 2019, the spacecraft, 110 million kilometres away, carried out a single, eight-second burn of its thrusters. Now, it will circle Bennu about 1.75 kilometres from its centre, closer than any other spacecraft has come to its celestial object of study.

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The OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023. Flickr

Previously, the closest orbit of a planetary body was in May 2016, when the Rosetta spacecraft orbited about seven kilometres from the centre of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The spacecraft is scheduled to orbit Bennu through mid-February at a leisurely 62 hours per orbit.

The OSIRIS-REx team will resume science operations in late February.

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At that point, the spacecraft will perform a series of close flybys of Bennu for several months to take high-resolution images of every square inch of the asteroid to help select a sampling site.

During the summer of 2020, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample.

The OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023. (IANS)

Next Story

NASA’s Future Scientists Would Likely Be Better Equipped To Study The Lunar Material

"By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the moon and beyond."

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Astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt collects lunar rake samples during the Apollo 17 mission, Dec. 13, 1972. VOA

NASA is once again turning its focus to the moon.

Nearly 50 years after the last lunar mission, the U.S. space agency is unsealing some of the samples brought back by Apollo astronauts for study.

The lunar samples were collected by astronauts during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions.

Some of the samples have never been opened, others were resealed in an effort to preserve them.

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“This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth.” Pixabay

NASA has picked nine teams of scientists to study the samples. The teams were selected from scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center, the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, the University of Arizona, the University of California, Berkeley, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, the University of New Mexico, Mount Holyoke College and the Planetary Science Institute.

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The lunar samples were collected by astronauts during the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions. Pixabay

“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the moon and beyond,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “This exploration will bring with it new and unique samples into the best labs right here on Earth.”

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NASA said its officials in the 1970s had the foresight to know that future scientists would likely be better equipped to study the lunar material. (VOA)