Pakyong, 26 March : The OSIRIS-REx mission is coming to its end, and NASA is making preparations for it. This will be the first time that a US mission brings back a sample from an asteroid to Earth.
After collecting samples from the asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is now on its way back to Earth and in its final leg of the two-year journey. The capsule carrying the sample is expected to land in Utah’s desert on September 24, 2023. This will mark the first time that a US mission has successfully brought back an asteroid sample to Earth.
Following its seven-year mission in space, one of the biggest challenges facing the OSIRIS-REx mission is delivering the asteroid sample to Earth without exposing it to heat, vibrations, or contamination from Earth. NASA is currently making preparations to ensure that the samples are accurately landed and safely retrieved.
The spacecraft of the OSIRIS-REx mission will not land on Earth; instead, it will release a capsule containing the sample. For the capsule to land accurately, the spacecraft will have to enter Earth’s atmosphere at a precise speed and direction. According to Mike Moreau, deputy project manager at NASA, if the capsule is angled too high during the descent, it will skip off the atmosphere like a rock skipping across a river and end up in outer space. Conversely, if the angle is too low, it will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The sample collected from asteroid Bennu is significant because asteroids can serve as “time capsules” for the early history of our solar system. This is because they can retain chemical signatures from a time when the universe was much younger. It is also possible that they contain samples of the building blocks of life from ancient times.
NASA and aerospace companies KinetX and Lockeed Martin are preparing for the return of the OSIRIS-REx mission by using computer models to test navigation plans. These simulations include testing for various weather conditions, solar activity, and space debris scenarios to ensure that the capsule containing the sample will accurately touch down in the target area at the scheduled time of 8.11 PM IST on September 24. Recovery crews will secure the capsule’s landing site and transport it to a portable clean room. NASA crews will also collect soil and air samples from around the landing capsule to identify any potential contaminants that may have entered the asteroid sample.
About OSIRIS-REx Mission
The OSIRIS-REx mission by NASA is the first American endeavor to retrieve an untouched asteroid sample and bring it back to Earth for further research. Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid near Earth that may pose a threat to Earth, is the mission’s target.
The remnants of the Solar System’s formation process, which began more than 4.5 billion years ago, are known as asteroids. Bennu will teach us a lot about planetary history and the origin of life and revolutionize our understanding of the early Solar System. The OSIRIS-REx mission will help us learn more about the dangers and resources near Earth and prepare us for future asteroid missions.
On December 3, 2018, OSIRIS-REx reached Bennu, where it was launched on September 8, 2016. On July 4, 2020, sample acquisition will begin. As projected that on September 24, 2023, the sample will return to Earth. Since OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at the asteroid in late 2018, DellaGiustina will discuss the mission’s early findings.
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