NASA spacecraft approaching asteroid Bennu, first click on the photo

Two years after launching from Florida, a NASA spacecraft is coming closer to an old asteroid, Bennu, for a sample of space dust that could give directions for the start of life in the solar system.

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx – Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer – has even made its first hazy photo of the cosmic body, which is about the size of a small mountain, about 500 meters in diameter. The spacecraft is designed to circle Bennu and with a robotic arm reaches & # 39; high-five & # 39; from the surface and then returns the sample that it collects to the earth in 2023.

Bennu's first images were taken on August 17th at a distance of 2.3 million kilometers from the $ 800 million spacecraft. "This is the closest thing we've ever been to Bennu," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. "This is important because we are now near the asteroid, closer than we have ever been, even during the approach of the asteroid to Earth."

Carbon-rich asteroid

Bennu was chosen from the approximately 500,000 asteroids in the solar system because it revolves around the sun in the vicinity of the Earth's path, it is the right measure for scientific study and it is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA. Astronomers say it involves a small risk – a probability of 2,700 – to collide with Earth in 2135.

It is also a carbon-rich asteroid, the kind of cosmic body that may have given life-saving materials to Earth billions of years ago. The OSIRIS-REx mission is not the first to have visited an asteroid and tried a return on the subject – Japan has done it before and Europe has managed to land on a comet. But it is the first asteroid-sample-return mission for NASA, and it aims to bring back the largest sample ever, in the order of 60 grams.

In December, the spacecraft begins with a detailed investigation of the surface of the asteroid, which NASA has defined as "arrival" on the asteroid. Orbital insertion is expected on 31 December. However, the sample will not be taken until July 2020.

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