NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx arrives at its targeted asteroid Bennu after 2-year journey

NASA’s first-ever OSIRIS-REx mission designed to visit an asteroid and return a sample of its dust back to Earth reached its destination, Bennu, two years after its launch. It will use its suite of five science instruments to study asteroid for the next year and a half.

OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. It was launched in September 2016 for studying 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid. It is NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission i.e. it will survey surface, collect the sample and deliver it safely back to Earth.

It will regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites and study its light and spectral properties. It will return to Earth after collecting some of its gravels by 2023. It will capture 60 grams dirt and debris from surface of the asteroid using its robotic arm without landing i.e. by hovering like hummingbird stirred up by nitrogen gas thrusters and then to Earth for detailed analysis of the collected samples.

It is a carbon-rich asteroid and believed to be the type of asteroids that may have chemical building blocks of life, along with lots of water. So, analysis of the returned sample from it could help to reveal key insights about the early solar system and the origin of life on Earth. It is a potentially hazardous asteroid and there is a very slight chance it could strike into Earth in the late 22nd century.

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