For the First Time, a NASA Spacecraft Has Arrived at an Asteroid — With Plans to Get Samples

December 4, 2018

By Chabeli Herrera

ORLANDO, Fla. — After two years of traveling millions of miles through the solar system, a small spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral is reaching its destination: an asteroid that could unlock the truth about the origin of life.

The spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, rendezvoused with the asteroid, named Bennu, shortly after noon Monday, marking a major milestone in the seven-year, round-trip journey to bring back small samples from the asteroid to Earth.

“We have arrived,” shouted Javi Cerna, an OSIRIS-REx telecom engineer with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which built the spacecraft, at the company’s mission control in Colorado as the signal arrived on Earth indicating OSIRIS-REx’s arrival.

The mission chose Bennu because it formed along with the universe 4.5 billion years ago, meaning its surface could offer clues as to the building blocks of life. It’s also relatively close to Earth, coming within about 186,000 miles of it every six years.

“It’s been a long time coming to the arrival,” said Heather Enos, the deputy principal investigator with the University of Arizona, who has been working on the mission for nearly a decade. “We are really looking forward to this next chapter of the mission. “

After Monday’s arrival, OSIRIS-REx won’t touch down on Bennu yet.

The spacecraft will come within 13 miles of the asteroid, before spending more than a year surveying Bennu at a closer distance and then picking a location for the sample retrieval in 2020.

Once it does arrive on the surface, it’ll use its mechanical arm to release a burst of nitrogen gas, and suck up rocks and surface soil. OSIRIS-REx is expected to collect between 2 and 70 ounces of samples before arriving back on Earth in September 2023.

In August, OSIRIS-REx — short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer — snapped its first picture of Bennu and sent it back to Earth. The mission is NASA’s first collecting samples from an asteroid. Japan has already collected samples of an asteroid in the past.

———

©2018 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

NASA

NASA Opens International Space Station to Space Tourists, New Commercial Ventures NASA
NASA Opens International Space Station to Space Tourists, New Commercial Ventures
June 7, 2019
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - NASA announced Friday it plans to open the International Space Station to businesses and even tourists in a bid to "accelerate a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit." The space agency is not selling trips to the space station directly, but instead will allow... Read More

NASA Test Flights in Reno Aim to Set Stage for Future Drone Package Deliveries Science
NASA Test Flights in Reno Aim to Set Stage for Future Drone Package Deliveries
May 24, 2019
by Dan McCue

NASA launched the final stage of its four-year program to create a national traffic management system for drones this week, a move that brings home delivery of packages, medical supplies and even pizza by small unmanned aircraft one step closer to reality. Earlier this year, the... Read More

Senate Witnesses Advocate Space Force to Protect U.S. Military and Private Satellites National Security
Senate Witnesses Advocate Space Force to Protect U.S. Military and Private Satellites
May 15, 2019
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON - The United States needs a new military branch called the Space Force for national defense and to protect commercial satellites, expert witnesses told a Senate panel Tuesday. President Donald Trump proposed the Space Force last year as a new and separate branch of the military.... Read More

International Collaboration Seen As Key to Future Space Exploration NASA
International Collaboration Seen As Key to Future Space Exploration
March 29, 2019
by HJ Mai

When Vice President Mike Pence announced earlier this week that the United States plans to put astronauts back on the moon within five years, he appealed to America’s competitive spirit by declaring a new space race against U.S. adversaries China and Russia. Though the U.S. space... Read More

NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk for an Odd Reason NASA
NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk for an Odd Reason

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The first all-female spacewalk — featuring a graduate from N.C. State University — has been canceled by NASA for an odd reason. They couldn’t find a space suit the right size in the closets of the International Space Station. There is only one... Read More

New Horizons' Rendezvous With Ultima Thule Went Off Without a Hitch, NASA Says NASA
New Horizons' Rendezvous With Ultima Thule Went Off Without a Hitch, NASA Says

Four billion miles from Earth, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft sped past a small, cold Kuiper Belt object known as Ultima Thule Monday night, collecting data on the most distant world ever visited by humankind. The flyby... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top