Asteroid Bennu is only 500 meters in diameter. But in about 150 years it could get dangerously close to Earth. NASA is therefore already collecting knowledge about Bennu. The next step is sampling.
In about 150 years, the asteroid Bennu could at least theoretically hit Earth. The American space agency NASA has therefore been more interested in Bennu for several years.
The Osiris Rex space probe reached Bennu after two years of space travel and over 650 million kilometers in December 2018. It first discovered traces of water on the asteroid. In a next step, the Bennus space probe will collect dust and gravel. The asteroid had already been mapped to determine the best location for sampling. However, the probe cannot land on the asteroid to take samples, as it is extremely small with a diameter of 500 meters and has very little pull. Instead, Osiris Rex attaches a three-meter mechanical arm to Bennu. To do this, the orbit in which the space probe is located is gradually reduced to this distance.
Osiris-Rex is said to suck up small-grain materials near Bennus North Pole. NASA researchers want to collect 60 to 2000 grams of asteroid particles. In previous missions, the space agency has successfully transported cometary dust and solar wind particles to Earth. However, there had never been asteroid samples before. The collection is believed to represent the largest cosmic transport since Apollo astronauts brought lunar rocks with them to Earth in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Blow with an enormous amount of energy
The cube-shaped Osiris-Rex probe is about six meters long, two and a half meters wide, three meters high and weighs about 2,100 kilograms. It has two solar panels, five instruments and various cameras. The name Osiris-Rex, which is reminiscent of an Egyptian deity, means “origin, spectral interpretation, resource identification, asteroid sample return mission by Security-Regolith Explorer”.
The asteroid Bennu was discovered in 1999 and revolves around the sun at a speed of about 100,000 kilometers per hour. If everything goes according to plan, the samples are expected to arrive on Earth in 2023. Osiris-Rex is supposed to throw the degraded material into a special heat-protected capsule above the earth. A test site in Utah has been designated as the landing site. Scientists want to use the rock material to learn more about Bennu. The dark asteroid is made of a particularly carbon-rich material and may contain clues to the beginning of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
The possibility of a possible collision with Earth is particularly explosive. According to current calculations, the probability of a collision between 2175 and 2199 is 1: 2700. However, according to the American research center, an impact would release 80,000 times more energy than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. That is why Nasa Bennu is one of the most dangerous asteroids known today. “Part of our scientific investigation is understanding orbit, refining the likelihood of an impact, and documenting its physical and chemical properties so future generations can develop an impact mitigation mission if necessary,” said Dante. Lauretta, Principal Investigator at Osiris-Rex at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
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