NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is gearing up to achieve a historic feat – bringing back a sample of an asteroid to Earth. This groundbreaking mission, the first of its kind for NASA, aims to shed light on the earliest days of our solar system. The spacecraft’s target is asteroid Bennu, which has captivated scientists due to its age and proximity to Earth.
The spacecraft, which embarked on its mission in 2016, finally reached Bennu in 2018 after a two-year journey. Since then, OSIRIS-REx has been meticulously studying the asteroid’s surface, searching for the perfect spot to collect samples. Scientists have been eagerly awaiting this moment as they hope to uncover valuable information from the ancient materials within the asteroid.
Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft previously held the distinction of being the only mission to bring back an asteroid sample. However, with the impending release of the capsule containing rock and dust from Bennu, NASA is set to claim this accolade. The space agency’s scientists believe that this sample could contain not only clues about the early solar system but potentially even organic molecules, fuelling excitement and curiosity in the scientific community.
To accomplish this milestone, OSIRIS-REx employed a “Touch-And-Go” strategy, where the spacecraft made a descent to gently collect the samples from the asteroid’s surface. The delicate maneuver required precise calculations and sophisticated technology, making the achievement all the more impressive.
Once the capsule is released, the spacecraft’s mission is not yet complete. OSIRIS-REx will redirect its attention to another intriguing asteroid, Apophis, en route to continue its scientific exploration. The spacecraft’s extended mission includes studying this near-Earth asteroid, providing valuable insights into its composition and behavior.
As we eagerly await the return of the capsule containing the precious asteroid sample, the scientific community anticipates the groundbreaking discoveries that lie ahead. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission marks an important milestone in space exploration, pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and paving the way for future missions to unlock the secrets of our universe.