A powerful spacecraft is headed for Earth, carrying rock and dust from a distant asteroid to deliver it to eager scientists waiting to analyze the precious sample. The OSIRIS-REx mission recently fired its thrusters to set course for the sample delivery site, with its rendezvous with Earth scheduled for later this month.
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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completed a trajectory correction maneuver on Sunday, adjusting its speed by about 0.5 miles per hour (less than 1 kilometer per hour) relative to Earth, the space agency announced Monday. If it has not achieved this critical course correction, the spacecraft will fly back to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to deliver a sample to asteroid Bennu on September 24. The spacecraft will release a capsule carrying the sample at 10:42 am ET, landing about 13 minutes after releasing the 36 miles by 8.5 miles (58 kilometers by 14 kilometers) at the Utah Test and Training Range. at the Department of Defense, southwest of Salt Lake City, according to NASA.
The spacecraft itself, on the other hand, doesn’t last long. OSIRIS-REx will deliver its sample and begin moving toward its next mission, exploring the asteroid Apophis. Therefore, the mission will be called OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer).
OSIRIS-REx was launched in September 2016 and retrieved a sample from asteroid Bennu in October 2020. Since then, the spacecraft has returned to Earth to drop off its precious cargo. It’s NASA’s first attempt to recover a sample from an asteroid, which scientists can examine more closely to help find clues about how life on Earth began.
The spacecraft is currently 4 million miles from Earth (7 million kilometers), traveling at a speed of approximately 14,000 mph (approximately 23,000 km/hour) toward its delivery zone. OSIRIS-REx may need to undergo a different course. This correction maneuver will be carried out on September 17, a week before the scheduled date for its grand delivery.
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