Seven years ago, NASA embarked on one of the most exciting and daring space missions in history: send a spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth.
It is big milestone in space exploration reached its apotheotic end this September 24, when the OSIRIS-REx mission capsule, full of precious samples from the asteroid Bennu, landed in the Great Salt Lake desert in Utah, United States.
To shed light on this amazing achievement and its cosmic significance, we have the exclusive Future 360 to speak to Dr. Yasmina Martos is a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The daring journey to Bennu
the The OSIRIS-REx mission began in 2016 and, after a two-year journey, it reached its destination: the asteroid Bennu. But this is only the beginning of his odyssey. The spacecraft spent time orbiting the asteroid to study it closely and choose the perfect spot to collect samples.
It was a painstaking process that took several years before OSIRIS-REx will fly from Bennu in 2021 to return to Earth.
Thanks for this long stay around Bennu, now We know more about this asteroid than any other in the solar system thanks to the high resolution images captured by the ship.
At first, “We expected to find a soft surface, like a beach, but we found a scene of huge rocks, which complicates the selection of the location of the collection,” explained Dr. March.
Selection of the sampling site
Revealed by Dr. That’s fair to us the chosen collection site is north of the asteroid, where a relatively flat area can be identified without large stones that could damage the collection device. This is a remarkable achievement in a mission full of challenges.
Asteroids: Witnesses of cosmic history
The importance of this mission is immense. Asteroids are witnesses of cosmic history, fragments that have not joined together to form planets and have been around since the birth of the solar system. Each asteroid contains valuable information about the formation and evolution of our solar system.
“Bennu, in particular, is rich in carbon and contains elements essential to life, including water in its minerals. This characteristic makes it something very interesting, because it can play an important role in providing essential ingredients for life on Earth,” explained the planetary scientist.
The future of research
Dr. shared. That’s smart Bennu samples will be taken to various research centers in the United States.
shallow pool Cataloging the samples will take about six months before starting the in-depth analysis. “This process will continue for decades, similar to the current research on the Moon sample,” he said.
Bennu, a small but fascinating asteroid, opens a window to understanding our cosmic history and reminds us that the stars and planets are not the only protagonists in the theater of the universe. Science and exploration continue, revealing secrets that have been hidden for years in the cold void of space.
Bennu in Earth’s orbit
Located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Bennu is in an orbit close to Earth. NASA is keeping a close eye on objects like Bennu that could pose a potential impact hazard to our planet in the future, although the odds are slim.