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NASA’s Asteroid Sampling Probe Snaps Picture of Asteroid Bennu

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

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OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid bennu
Asteria belongs to a category of satellites called CubeSats, which vary in size but are typically smaller than a suitcase. VOA

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx, which went into orbit around asteroid Bennu on New Year’s Eve, has captured incredible photographs of the smallest ever celestial body to be orbited by a spacecraft.

Launched from Florida in 2016, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza, on December 3, 2018 after travelling more than one billion miles through space.

“The mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km),” researchers from the Arizona State University (ASU) said in a statement on Thursday.

“The image was obtained at a 50-degree phase angle between the spacecraft, asteroid and the sun, and in it, Bennu spans approximately 1,500 pixels in the camera’s field of view,” it added.

The team of scientists found that Bennu is a craggy ball, with some boulders the size of houses.

They thought taking the sample return was going to be like plucking something from a football field. However, it is not.

“We didn’t know what it looked like, and that’s called exploration,” said Phil Christensen, Professor at Arizona State University (ASU).

“It’s going to be like landing between two parked cars in a parking lot,” Christensen said.

Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

Bennu is not a solid rock. It’s either porous or formed of a very “fluffy” – Christensen’s word – material.

This type of meteorite is so fragile, if you get it wet or touch it with your hands, it’s ruined, said Devin Schrader, assistant research professor with the ASU.

Interestingly, these meteorites contain water. It’s not in liquid form, but it’s in the minerals – up to 2 per cent in some cases. Bennu’s parent body had significant interactions with water, said ,” said Vicky Hamilton, a co-investigator on the OSIRIS-REx mission, Schrader said.

The OSIRIS-REx will begin 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

SpaceX Plans To Send NASA Astronauts To Space in Q2 This Year

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff

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NASA
It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point. Pixabay

After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year.

This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme, the US space agency said in a statement on Sunday.

With this test now complete, the next big flight of the Crew Dragon will have people on board: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“We’re highly confident that the hardware will be ready in Q1, most likely at the end of February but no later than March. And we think it appears probable that the first crewed launch would occur in the second quarter,” said Musk after the successful uncrewed test of its Crew Dragon capsule’s in-flight launch escape capabilities.

Musk said that if all goes well, the first crewed flight on the Crew Dragon could take place in the second quarter of this year.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test on Sunday, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 am just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Musk. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

NASA
After NASA and SpaceX successfully completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, Elon Musk said that his aerospace company aims to send NASA astronauts to space between April and June this year. Wikimedia Commons

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. “The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley.

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“Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon,” he said in the NASA statement. (IANS)