A rendering of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
A NASA spacecraft on Tuesday touched the floor of the asteroid Bennu, in a mission that goals to return rocky items for examination on Earth in 2023.
“Touchdown declared,” NASA stated on a webcast from the mission’s management middle. “Sampling is in progress.”
The mission marks the first time NASA has tried to return supplies from an asteroid, a feat that solely Japan has pulled off earlier than however in smaller portions. While NASA confirmed that the spacecraft touched the asteroid, the area company is not going to know for a number of extra hours if it collected supplies efficiently.
Called OSIRIS-REx – an acronym that stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer – the NASA spacecraft represents the end result of years of labor. The mission launched in Sept. 2016, with a complete price of about $1 billion.
“Everything I’ve worked on has been focused on this day, getting the spacecraft down to contact the asteroid and collect the sample,” Dr. Dante Lauretta, a professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona and the chief of the mission, instructed CNBC.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft itself is about the dimension of a giant van: 20 ft lengthy, 9 ft huge, 10 ft tall, with an 11 foot arm that may attain down to seize materials in a maneuver NASA calls “tagging” the asteroid. The spacecraft was constructed by Lockheed Martin’s area division.
“What deep space missions are able to discover is directly applicable to [NASA’s other efforts, such as] lunar exploration,” Lockheed Martin director of deep area exploration Ari Vogel instructed CNBC.
An picture of the asteroid Bennu taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
OSIRIS-REx is greater than 200 million miles from Earth, having arrived at Bennu in Dec 2018 after two years of journey. NASA spent most of 2019 surveying Bennu with the devices on board the spacecraft, to additional inform its tag attempt. NASA introduced in Dec. 2019 that OSIRIS-REx would goal a location named Nightingale, which is the place Tuesday’s materials assortment occurred.
Bennu is “the best characterized asteroid astronomically in history,” Lauretta stated. Like the Earth, the asteroid is in orbit round the Sun. At the time of the attempt, Bennu was on the reverse facet of the Sun, which means there’s a communications time delay of about 19 minutes between Lockheed Martin’s mission management in Colorado and the spacecraft at the asteroid.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft undergoes testing earlier than launching in 2016.
“When we’re talking to the spacecraft, we have these giant antennas that are all over the world that send a signal that goes past the sun, and then another distance across the solar system, and then it reaches the spacecraft,” Lauretta stated.
Lauretta is in cost of the scientific objectives of the mission, primarily deciding on the web site to accumulate the supplies.
“Once I made that selection, I handed it over to the engineering team and spacecraft team, which Lockheed Martin is responsible for,” Lauretta stated.
The pattern assortment is a four and a half hour occasion, with the spacecraft performing a number of maneuvers to slowly method the asteroid’s floor. The OSIRIS-REx operations crew confirmed that the spacecraft touched the floor efficiently, carried out its pattern assortment, after which backed away from the asteroid with its on board spacecraft thrusters.
OSIRIS-REx aimed to accumulate between two ounces and 5 kilos of Bennu’s materials to ship again to Earth. It’s the largest such pattern return from area since the Apollo moon missions.
Ahead of the landing, Lauretta stated that the OSIRIS-REx crew created “a very detailed map of the asteroid” to discover the proper goal spot. The spacecraft did not technically land on the asteroid, Vogel defined, for plenty of causes. Primarily, Vogel stated that Bennu has its personal micro-gravity environments, so “any sort of force can greatly perturb the asteroid’s orbit” and make it “really tricky” to management the spacecraft. That’s why NASA and Lockheed Martin created the “touch-and-go-maneuver,” so the spacecraft would solely gently contact the asteroid earlier than backing away.
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