NASA vessel starts a job with a small asteroid in the space function, United States News & Top Stories



TAMPA • A NASA spacecraft has placed a new milestone in cosmic reconnaissance by orbiting an asteroid, Bennu, to enter the smallest object ever circled by a spaceship.

The spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, is the very first American mission designed to visit an asteroid and bring a sample of its substance to Earth.

The unmanned spacecraft of US $ 800 million (S $ 1.1 billion) was launched two years ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived on December 3 at its destination, some 110 million kilometers away.

On Monday, after carefully studying the asteroid for several weeks, the spaceship fired its thrusters to bring it into orbit around Bennu.

The asteroid has a diameter of about 500 meters.

"Introducing a job around Bennu is a great achievement that our team has been planning for years," says Dr. Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of Osiris-Rex at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

NASA said the track marks "a leap for mankind" because no spacecraft ever "got so close to such a small space object – one with scarcely enough gravity to keep a vehicle in a stable orbit".

The spacecraft revolves around Bennu, just over a kilometer from the center. The Rosetta spacecraft of the European Space Agency turned into a comet in May 2016, but at a further distance of about 6.4 km from the center of the comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Bennu has a gravitational force that is only five million times as strong as the earth, said Nasa. Each circuit of Osiris-Rex takes 62 hours.

NASA said the track marks "a leap for mankind" because no spacecraft ever "got so close to such a small space object – one with scarcely enough gravity to keep a vehicle in a stable orbit".

The plan is for Osiris-Rex to make a job at Bennu in mid-February, using a series of five scientific instruments to map out the asteroids in high resolution, so that scientists can determine exactly where they should choose from.

Then, in 2020, it reaches its robot arm and touches the asteroid in a maneuver that Rich Kuhns, program manager Osiris-Rex at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, describes as a "soft high-five".

Using a circular device that resembles the air filter of a car and an inverted vacuum to generate and collect dust, the device tries to pick up about 60 g of material from the surface of the asteroid and send it back in 2023 to the earth.

Bennu, a fragment of the early solar system, is also considered potentially dangerous. It poses a small risk – a probability of 2,700 – to collide with Earth in 2135.

The carbon-rich asteroid was selected from about 500,000 asteroids in the solar system because it rotates around the sun near the earth's path, has the right measure for scientific study and is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA.

Scientists hope that it will reveal more about the early formation of the solar system, and how you can find precious resources such as metals and water in asteroids.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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