Washington, October 21
A NASA spacecraft touched down on the rugged floor of the Bennu asteroid on Tuesday, grabbing a pattern of rocks relationship again to the start of our photo voltaic system to carry house.
The minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, constructed by Lockheed Martin, prolonged its 11-foot (3.35 m) robotic arm towards a flat patch of gravel close to Bennu’s north pole and plucked the pattern of rocks, the area company’s first handful of pristine asteroid rocks.
“Pattern assortment is full, and the back-away burn has executed,” Lockheed mission operator Estelle Church added seconds later, confirming the spacecraft eased away from the area rock after making contact.
The probe will ship again pictures of the pattern assortment on Wednesday and all through the week so scientists can look at how a lot materials was retrieved and decide whether or not the probe might want to make one other assortment try.
If a profitable assortment is confirmed, the spacecraft will journey again towards Earth, arriving in 2023. Japan is the one different nation to have already achieved this.
Bennu, positioned over 100 million miles from Earth and whose acorn-shaped physique shaped within the early days of our photo voltaic system, might maintain clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.
“The whole lot went simply precisely good,” Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator from the College of Arizona, Tucson, stated on a NASA stay feed from Lockheed’s mission help constructing. “We’ve got overcome the wonderful challenges that this asteroid has thrown at us, and the spacecraft seems to have operated flawlessly.” The robotic arm’s assortment gadget, formed like an outsized bathe head, is designed to launch a pressurized fuel to kick up particles.
The spacecraft launched in 2016 from Kennedy Area Middle for the journey to Bennu. It has been in orbit across the asteroid for practically two years making ready for the “contact and go” maneuver.
“Numerous issues might go unsuitable as a result of the spacecraft’s concerning the dimension of a van, and the asteroid has a variety of boulders in it,” Lucy Lim, a planetary scientist at NASA, stated in an earlier interview. “So we have now to go between the boulders to get our pattern, and a variety of planning went into that.” Asteroids are among the many leftover particles from the photo voltaic system’s formation some 4.5 billion years in the past.
Scientists imagine asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth might have delivered natural compounds and water that seeded the planet for all times. Atomic-level evaluation of samples from Bennu might present key proof to help that speculation. Reuters