NASA spacecraft begins 2-year trip home with asteroid rubble

2 days ago 29

With rubble from an asteroid tucked inside, a NASA spacecraft fired its engines and began the agelong travel backmost to Earth connected Monday, leaving the past abstraction stone successful its rearview mirror.

The travel location for the robotic prospector, Osiris-Rex, volition instrumentality 2 years. Osiris-Rex reached asteroid Bennu successful 2018 and spent 2 years flying adjacent and astir it, earlier collecting rubble from the aboveground past fall.

The University of Arizona’s Dante Lauretta, the main scientist, estimates the spacecraft holds betwixt a fractional lb and 1 lb (200 grams and 400 grams) of mostly bite-size chunks. Either way, it easy exceeds the people of astatine slightest 2 ounces (60 grams).

It volition beryllium the biggest cosmic haul for the U.S. since the Apollo satellite rocks. While NASA has returned comet particulate and star upwind samples, this is the archetypal clip it’s gone aft pieces of an asteroid. Japan has accomplished it twice, but successful tiny amounts.

Scientists described Monday’s departure from Bennu’s vicinity arsenic bittersweet.

“I’ve been moving connected getting a illustration backmost from an asteroid since my girl was successful diapers and present she’s graduating from precocious school, truthful it’s been a agelong journey,” said NASA task idiosyncratic Jason Dworkin.

Added Lauretta: “We person gotten utilized to being astatine Bennu and seeing caller and breathtaking images and information coming backmost to america present connected Earth.”

Osiris-Rex was already astir 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the solar-orbiting Bennu erstwhile it fired its main engines Monday day for a fast, cleanable get-away.

Colorado-based formation controllers for spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin applauded erstwhile confirmation arrived of the spacecraft’s departure: “We’re bringing the samples home!”

Scientists anticipation to uncover immoderate of the star system’s secrets from the samples vacuumed past October from Bennu’s dark, rough, carbon-rich surface. The asteroid is an estimated 1,600 feet (490 meters) wide and 4.5 cardinal years old.

Bennu — considered a breached chunk from a bigger asteroid — is believed to clasp the preserved gathering blocks of the star system. The returning pieces could shed airy connected however the planets formed and however beingness arose connected Earth. They besides could amended Earth’s likelihood against immoderate incoming rocks.

Although the asteroid is 178 cardinal miles (287 cardinal kilometers) away, Osiris-Rex volition enactment different 1.4 cardinal miles (2.3 cardinal kilometers) connected its odometer to drawback up with Earth.

The SUV-size spacecraft volition ellipse the prima doubly earlier delivering its tiny illustration capsule to Utah’s godforsaken level connected Sept. 24, 2023, to extremity the much than $800 cardinal mission. It launched from Cape Canaveral successful 2016.

The precious samples volition beryllium housed astatine a caller laboratory nether operation astatine NASA’s Johnson Space Center successful Houston, already location to hundreds of pounds of lunar worldly collected by the 12 Apollo moonwalkers from 1969 to 1972.

Scientists initially thought the spacecraft stored 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of asteroid rubble, but much precocious revised their estimation downward. They won’t cognize for definite however overmuch is connected committee until the capsule is opened aft touchdown.

“Every spot of illustration is valuable,” Dworkin said. “We person to beryllium patient.”

NASA has tons much asteroid projects planned.

Set to motorboat successful October, a spacecraft named Lucy volition alert past swarms of asteroids retired adjacent Jupiter, portion a spacecraft known arsenic Dart volition blast disconnected successful November successful an effort to redirect an asteroid arsenic portion of a planetary extortion test. Then successful 2022, the Psyche spacecraft volition instrumentality disconnected for an odd, metallic asteroid bearing the aforesaid name. None of these missions, however, impact illustration return.

This communicative has been published from a ligament bureau provender without modifications to the text. Only the header has been changed.

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