After a two-year hunt, a Nasa probe has reached the old asteroid Bennu. Robot explorer Osiris-Rex pulled within 12 miles…
After a two-year hunt, a Nasa probe has reached the old asteroid Bennu. Robot explorer Osiris-Rex pulled within 12 miles (19km) of the diamond-shaped object on Monday and will take orbiting around December 31st. No spacecraft has ever curved such a small body.
Bennu is considered a potentially dangerous asteroid – it is due to close proximity of the earth around 150 years. If it collided with the earth, Bennu would probably cause a crater.
Osiris-Rex strives to collect at least 60 grams of dust and gravel, the first attempt from the United States after a minor mission to another asteroid of Japan. The spacecraft will not land without using a three-mechanical arm by 2020 to temporarily touch down and pick up particles. The sample container is scheduled to crush and enter the earth in 2021.
The collection – parachute down to Utah – would represent the greatest height since the Apollo astronauts handmade moonstones to the earth in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Researchers hope to learn more about the source of water in the solar system and the origins of organic molecules from which life first occurred. Gaining hands on untouched asteroid materials can also provide clues on how to mining them for valuable materials and defending themselves against wilds that can threaten the earth.
explains how to collect a sample from an asteroid
Flight controllers applauded and swapped high freaks on Monday when confirmation came by Osiris-Rex made it to Bennu – just one week after Nasa landed a spacecraft on Mars.
“Easy, proud and anxious to start exploring!” tweeted principal researcher Dante Lauretta at the University of Arizona. “To Bennu and back!”  Dante Lauretta
One of the main goals of @OSIRISREx is to understand the Yarkovsky effect – a non-gravity that can change an asteroid’s path. We must measure the effect to accurately predict whether Bennu will affect the ground or not. Https: //t.co/oh4qkS27j6 https://t.co/UX9S7kYNtL
Bennu is 76m miles (122mkm) away, so it took seven minutes for the success word to reach the Airbag at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado, where spacecraft was built.
Bennu is estimated to be just over 1,600ft (500 meters) above. Researchers will provide a more accurate description at a scientific meeting on Monday next week in Washington.
About the size of a large car, spacecraft will shade the asteroid for a year before sucking up some gravel to return to Earth in 2023.
A Japanese spacecraft has since hung on another asteroid near the ground since June, also for testing. It is Japan’s second asteroid mission. The latest rock is called Ryugu and is about twice as big as Bennu.
Rough stains should be here by December 2020, but will be significantly less than the Osiris-Rex promised byte.
Engineer Tim Linn explains how Osiris-Rex will suck asteroid dust. Photo: John Leyba / Denver Post via Getty Images
Nasa has reclaimed comet dust and sunflower particles before but never asteroid samples. Japan managed to return some small particles in 2010 from its first asteroid mission called Hayabusa.
Contact with Bennu will not change its orbit significantly, or make it more dangerous to the planet, stressed Lauretta.
The $ 800m Osiris-Rex Mission started with a 2016 launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its mileage meter reads 1.2 miles miles from Monday.
Both spacecraft and asteroids are named from Egyptian mythology. Osiris is the god of afterlife, while Bennu represents the heron and creation.
Osiris-Rex is actually an Nasa acronym for origin, spectral interpretation, resource identification, security regolith explorer.
Associated Press contributed to this article