NASA‘s OSIRIS-REx probe is now prepared to gather samples from asteroid Bennu, the space agency has just announced. NASA is, at the moment, analyzing the space rock that measures 500 meters (1640 feet) long, on whose proximity the spacecraft arrived in 2018.
Part of the reason NASA has sent the OSIRIS-REx probe near Bennu is to collect more information about the cosmic object.
OSIRIS-REx’s Sample Collection Mission Delayed
After completing a series of rehearsals last month, which had the spacecraft approach the asteroid at a closer distance than previously, NASA has announced that the probe is now ready to collect samples from the space rock.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, stated: “The OSIRIS-REx mission has been demonstrating the very essence of exploration by persevering through unexpected challenges. That spirit has led them to the cusp of the prize we all are waiting for—securing a sample of an asteroid to bring home to Earth, and I’m very excited to follow them through the home stretch.”
The first Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection event was initially set to happen in August of this year. However, due to the global crisis we’re currently in, NASA has delayed the process until October, with the samples to be taken to Earth in 2023.
Bennu Could Impact Venus
Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said that this mission’s performance until now is proof of the skill and dedication the team of the OSIRIS-REx has.
NASA, however, is concerned that the asteroid which has the possibility to destroy a country on Earth could hit our planet within the next 120 years, as it has a close flyby in 2135. The mission will provide scientists with more information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision trajectory with Earth.
The space agency reiterates that while there is an extremely slight possibility Earth could be affected, ‘over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus.’ By gathering samples, NASA wants to understand more about the Solar System, as Bennu is a piece of celestial object that remained since our galactic vicinity’s formation about 4.6 billion years ago.