NASA is preparing to spot the first asteroid sample as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will drop a capsule containing fragments of Bennu to Earth.
Launched in 2016, OSIRIS-REx is named after the initials Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, and took two years to reach the Bennu object. Before rendezvousing with the diamond-shaped asteroid, he spent two years studying its surface to pick a perfect spot to land and collect regolith.
In 2020, it descended on the asteroid and collected much more material than expected. The grains were carefully stored in a sample return capsule and the spacecraft began to head towards earth. Now, after seven years, it is preparing to finally deliver its scientific payload.
On September 24, OSIRIS-REx will eject its sample return capsule as it passes over our planet. The device will move towards Earth and re-enter the atmosphere at a speed of 27.650 miles per hour. After about two minutes, it will open a parachute to slow down before touching down in the Utah desert.
On Wednesday, NASA officials working with the U.S. military conducted the final rehearsal for the return mission, dropping a mock sample capsule from an aircraft to test its ability to land in a drop zone within the Department's test and training range. Defense in Utah.
"We're just weeks away from bringing a piece of solar system history to Earth, and this successful drop test ensures we're ready," Reported Nicola Fox, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "The pristine material from asteroid Bennu will help shed light on the formation of our solar system 4,5 billion years ago and perhaps even how life on Earth began."
When the capsule, estimated to contain up to 250 grams of regolith, lands on Earth, it will be carefully recovered and stored in a clean room at the military field. It will be disassembled and shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the sample will be documented, stored and distributed to scientists around the world.
OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first asteroid return mission. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency was the first to collect space rocks on the Hayabusa mission to 25143 Itokawa from 2003 to 2010.
Asteroids are believed to be pieces of leftover material created during the formation of the planets in the solar system. Astronomers believe that understanding their properties and chemical composition will reveal secrets about how planets and even life on Earth formed.