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How much of the asteroid Bennu will the OSIRIS-REx mission bring to Earth?

Launched into space seven years ago, destined for the asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe is expected to arrive at Earth on Sunday (24), bringing a sample of space rock for analysis.

After the final unpacking of the spacecraft, we will find out the exact amount of material collected in October 2020 from the 500 meter wide asteroid. NASA scientists believe studying the sample could reveal a lot about the early days of the Solar System, including shedding light on how life began on Earth.

In the agency’s original plans, the probe would have collected 60 grams of material after landing on the asteroid’s surface. A landing which, by the way, was surprising, since Bennu was not as solid as the mission team expected. Therefore, the equipment’s sampling arm had to drill into space rock much deeper than expected.

This unscheduled process ended up clogging the sampling tool, preventing proper sealing and causing some of the acquired material to leak into the space.

To minimize losses, the mission team decided to store the material in the probe’s return capsule as quickly as possible.

As the site explains, the new plan meant that a previously planned maneuver was not executed. OSIRIS-REx would have had to rotate slightly above the asteroid, to collect data that would allow team members to estimate the mass of the collected sample – therefore, the exact amount stored is unknown.

An estimate has been calculated by other means, but it is far from accurate. According to these calculations, the sample capsule must contain from 149 g to 351 g (which would already be more than planned, even with the exhausts).

By comparison, the Japanese probe Hayabusa2 returned only about 5 g of material from the asteroid Ryugu in December 2020, and scientists have already analyzed many interesting results from this relatively small sample.

The material delivered by OSIRIS-REx will be stored and cared for at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston. JSC staff will oversee the distribution of the sample to researchers around the world, who will investigate it for a variety of purposes.

One line of study, for example, will focus on organic compounds, such as carbon. Scientists believe that asteroids rich in this element, such as Bennu, may have helped life establish itself on Earth by transporting organic substances through impacts.

After delivering samples to Earth on Sunday, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will continue to operate. The team will set a course to the potentially dangerous asteroid Apophis, which the spacecraft is expected to reach in 2029, becoming the OSIRIS-APEX mission.

The post How much of the asteroid Bennu will the OSIRIS-REx mission bring to Earth? appeared first on Olhar Digital.

Source: Olhar Digital



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