NASA Spacecraft Makes First Touchdown On Asteroid Bennu

Washington: After over a decade of planning, a NASA spacecraft made historical past after it efficiently touched an asteroid to gather mud and pebbles from its floor.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm on Tuesday in an try to gather the pattern from asteroid Bennu, which is at the moment greater than 321 million kilometres from Earth, NASA mentioned.

“Preliminary data show that today’s sample collection event went as planned. More details to come once all the data from the event are downlinked to Earth,” NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission mentioned in a tweet.

“After over a decade of planning, the team is overjoyed at the success of today’s sampling attempt,” Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator on the College of Arizona in Tucson, mentioned in a press release.

Nevertheless, it can take a couple of week for the OSIRIS-REx workforce to substantiate how a lot pattern the spacecraft collected.

Bennu presents scientists a window into the early photo voltaic system because it was first taking form billions of years in the past and flinging components that would have helped seed life on Earth.

If Tuesday’s pattern assortment occasion, often called “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), supplied sufficient of a pattern, mission groups will command the spacecraft to start stowing the dear primordial cargo to start its journey again to Earth in March 2021.

In any other case, they are going to put together for an additional try in January.

“This amazing first for NASA demonstrates how an incredible team from across the country came together and persevered through incredible challenges to expand the boundaries of knowledge,” mentioned NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands.”

At 1.50 p.m. EDT, OSIRIS-REx fired its thrusters to nudge itself out of orbit round Bennu. It prolonged the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist of its 3.35-metre sampling arm, often called the Contact-And-Go Pattern Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and transited throughout Bennu whereas descending about 805 metre towards the floor.

After a four-hour descent, at an altitude of roughly 125 metres, the spacecraft executed the “Checkpoint” burn, the primary of two maneuvers to permit it to exactly goal the pattern assortment website, often called “Nightingale.”

Ten minutes later, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for the second “Matchpoint” burn to gradual its descent and match the asteroid’s rotation on the time of contact.

It then continued a treacherous, 11-minute coast previous a boulder the dimensions of a two-story constructing, nicknamed “Mount Doom,” to the touch down in a transparent spot in a crater on Bennu’s northern hemisphere.

The dimensions of a small car parking zone, the location Nightingale website is likely one of the few comparatively clear spots on this unexpectedly boulder-covered area rock, NASA mentioned.

The pattern collected by the spacecraft will return to Earth in 2023.


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