NASA Prepares to Get the OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Closer to Asteroid Bennu

NASA has published an outstanding image of its OSIRIS-REx probe flying incredibly close to a massive asteroid as the American space agency sets everything right in order to perform a test run for a new mission.

The agency is, at the moment, observing Bennu, an asteroid measuring 1,640 feet (500 meters), with the help of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that headed to the space rock back in 2018. One of the reasons NASA sent the probe on the asteroid is to collect more data about the space rock.

Now, the space agency is preparing for a test run of a project that will land OSIRIS-REx on Bennu’s surface. The mission has been named ‘Checkpoint’ and will have the probe approach the surface of the asteroid at closer proximity than ever before.

Surface Samples From Bennu

The end goal will be performed in August, when OSIRIS-REx will land on the object’s surface and collect samples, before returning them to Earth in 2023.

NASA said: “In order to achieve this challenging feat, the mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them. So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.”

On April 14th, the mission will have its first practice run, which will also place the probe incredibly close to the asteroid. This rehearsal is an opportunity for the OSIRIS-REx team and the vehicle to test the first steps of the sample collection process.

The mission will provide crucial information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision path with Earth, but, as NASA says, there is a tiny chance Earth could be impacted, because, throughout millions of years, Bennu is most likely to collide with Venus.

Bashar Rizk, an instrument scientist for OSIRIS-Rex said: “The story of this asteroid is the story of the solar system. When we understand Bennu, we will understand something fundamental about our solar system.”

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