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NASA Probe Reaches Asteroid Bennu Ready to Collect Samples

06 Décembre 2018

This asteroid represents a threat to our planet, because in a hundred years will approach the Earth at a very risky distance, according to the Chronicle.info with reference to TSN. Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said that OSIRIS-REx arrived within Bennu's Hill Sphere - the region where the asteroid's gravity field is stronger than the Sun's - on 1 December. The sample will be packed into a capsule that will drop in the Utah desert in 2023.

The Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) will suck up the regolith, kicked up by its nitrogen gas thrusters, and hopefully collect enough to study back at home.

By 2021, the window for OSIRIS-REx's slow return to Earth will open, and it'll set itself on a path that will bring it by the the third planet in September 2023. This means that the components that make up the asteroid could be the same materials that formed the planets and sun in our solar system.

Bennu is due to make a close pass of Earth in about 150 years possibly involving a collision.

'Some of the mineral fragments inside Bennu could be older than the solar system. The amount that the signal shifts will help determine how massive the asteroid is.

The OSIRIS-REx mission and NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, now closing in on a denizen of the Kuiper Belt a billion miles past Pluto, are both aimed at studying primitive bodies left over from the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Bennu will be the smallest astronomical object ever orbited by a spacecraft; it's only around 1,600 feet from end to end, on average. Instruments on board will allow enable us to identify different chemicals on it.

The cameras will begin recording the sampling site and its surroundings.

An artist's impression of Bennu. Though small asteroids can rotate very quickly, Bennu has a diameter just a bit bigger than the height of the Empire State Building and rotates relatively slowly, each 4.3 hours.

Scientists estimate there is a one-in-2,700 chance of the asteroid crashing into Earth 166 years from now. Getting their hands on pristine asteroid material might also yield clues about how to mine them for valuable materials and defend against wayward ones that might threaten Earth.

The robotic explorer Osiris-Rex pulled within 12 miles (19 kilometers) of the diamond-shaped space rock. One of the things it will measure is the Bennu's "Yarkovsky acceleration". But there are other asteroids like Bennu out there, and the more we understand them, the better. First images of the asteroid from the spacecraft's perspective have appeared as it got closer and closer. The carbon-rich data could also hold information about the start of our solar system.

The mission's navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid. If you stood at Bennu's North Pole and jumped, you would achieve escape velocity and go soaring off into the void.

"We've been proud to have played our part in the mission's journey so far and its successful arrival at Bennu, but the mission is really only just beginning", Mr Nagle said. Read the original article.

NASA Probe Reaches Asteroid Bennu Ready to Collect Samples