After more than two years of gathering information from the small near-Earth asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx device has returned to Earth. It will deliver researchers a valuable cargo – pieces of an asteroid for further study.
OSIRIS-REx collected samples of the asteroid Bennu in October 2020. Scientists explained that now is the time to bring these samples home to laboratories on Earth so that scientists can study them and understand how asteroids and our solar system formed.
If all goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will travel home on May 10, with engineers receiving a signal that the spacecraft’s engines have started working in 16 minutes. NASA will broadcast live from the mission control center, including new images from the spacecraft’s last flyby over Bennu.
NASA launched a $ 800 million mission in 2016, the first American mission to collect asteroid samples. The probe, which followed two successful Japanese asteroid sampling missions, collected 60 grams of samples from Bennu in the fall of 2020. OSIRIS-REx will deliver these materials in 2023.
To do this, OSIRIS-REx will start its engines today for about seven minutes to change the speed by nearly 1,000 km / h, NASA said in a statement. The way home will be about 2.3 billion km, as OSIRIS-REx must circumnavigate the Sun twice to get from Bennu to Earth.
As a result of the maneuver, the spacecraft should cross with Earth’s orbit and drop a capsule with samples in Utah on September 24, 2023. The main spacecraft could be sent to a new destination – its trajectory is conveniently aligned for a visit to the large near-Earth asteroid Apophis in 2029.
Meanwhile, NASA officials will collect a sample of space rock and take it to NASA’s Astromaterials Center at the Johnson Space Center in Texas, which houses a collection of moon rocks, meteorites and other space materials.