NASA has just landed on the asteroid Bennu. What you need to know about the mission

NASA's Osiris-Rex Will Land on Asteroid Bennu: How to Watch Live

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft collecting samples from the asteroid Bennu.

NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

Editor’s note: Osiris-Rex met Bennu. The event coverage is here. Here are the answers to all your questions about the mission.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft simply I hit a big asteroid On Tuesday it sweeps rocks and dust off the surface and returns it to Earth for research, and on Wednesday, NASA First image batch released. The event is NASA’s first major It is a potential benefit for science, space exploration, and an understanding of the solar system.

Touch-and-go or TAG, sample collection of asteroids 101955 Bennu It was considered a success around 3:12 PM PT. NASA launches TAG with NASA TV Agency website. At the end of this piece you can find live stream re-watch. Read on to answer all other Bennu questions.

When did the mission begin?

Osiris-Rex as a concept has been around since at least in 2004 when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA. After more than 10 years of development, the spacecraft Released September 8, 2016 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Atop the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The ship spent 26 months cruising to Benu, which officially arrived on December 3, 2018.

Since then, the mission team has been orbiting the diamond-shaped space rock, inspecting and mapping its surface for nearly two years, selecting the best sampling point. In recent months, rehearsals have led to sample collection attempts.


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NASA successfully landed the Osiris-Rex spacecraft on an asteroid.


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Why Bennu

Bennu is a “debris pile” asteroid called an asteroid. This means that it was formed in the deep cosmic past when gravity slowly combined the remnants of an ancient collision. The result was a top-shaped body about a third of a mile (500 meters) in diameter, and a surface scattered with large rocks and rocks.

Bennu is thought to be a window into the solar system’s past. It is a clean, carbon-rich body that contains the components of planets and life. Some of these resources, such as water and metals, may be worth mining for use in Earth or space exploration at some point in the future.

Asteroids have another trait that makes them particularly interesting to scientists and humans in general. It has the potential to affect Earth in the distant future. Above NASA’s List of Impact Risks, Bennu was in second place. Current data show dozens of potential impacts in the last quarter of the 22nd century. However, they all have only a few minutes of chance to really succeed.

How does TAG work?

For anyone who has ever met robots or participated in robotics competitions, the Osiris-Rex mission seems to be the ultimate pinnacle of a young robot engineer’s dream. The touch-and-go sampling procedure is a complex and critical task that has been building key peak moments over the years. If successful, it will play an important role in history and the future of the universe.

The basic plan is that Osiris-Rex Visiting site called Nightingale. A van-sized spacecraft will have to negotiate a building-sized rock around the landing pad to reach a relatively clean space as large as a few parking spaces. However, the robotic sampling arm will be the only part the Osiris-Rex can actually put down on the surface. One of the three compressed nitrogen vessels is fired to stir up dust and small rock samples, which can then be grabbed by the arm’s collector head for safe storage and return to Earth.

It takes roughly 4 hours for the asteroid to make one full turn down to the Bennu surface. After this slow approach, the actual TAG sample collection procedure lasts less than 16 seconds.

TAG preparation did not go as planned. Mission organizers initially hoped that Bennu’s surface would have many potential landing points, mostly covered with a finer material comparable to sand or gravel. Bennu’s surface is very sturdy with no real welcome landing points.

After reassessing the mission over the past two years, the team decided to try “stitching” through Nightingale’s rocky landscape.

All paid off so far. Osiris-RexBut I’m not sure if the samples were collected by the end of October. Fortunately, if the tag fails, the ship can try again. Equipped with 3 nitrogen containers, it can fire and destroy surfaces. This means that the team can make up to 3 attempts to collect samples.

And what?

Immediately after collecting the sample, Osiris-Rex fires a thruster to retreat from Bennu. The spacecraft will continue to roam above Bennu for the remainder of 2020, before finally performing a departing maneuver next year and embarking on the journey back to Earth for two years.

On September 24, 2023, Osiris-Rex will land in the Utah desert to dispose of sample return capsules that will be recovered for research.

Haven’t you done it before?

Yes. Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft Asteroid 25143 Itokawa Its successor, Hayabusa-2, In 2019, a special copper bullet was fired on a large asteroid Ryugu. Some of the fragments were recovered. The sample is returning to Earth.

How can I see it?

The CNET Highlights channel covered the event live. You can see the stream below again.

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