Two years after launch, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is now just hours away from reaching its destination: the Bennu asteroid.
Following the successful touch down of the InSight lander on the Martian surface, another NASA probe is on its way to make history. Today, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to reach the surface of Bennu, one of the closest asteroids to Earth.
The highly-anticipated rendezvous with the asteroid will happen today, December 3, at around 11:45 AM to 12:15 PM EST. NASA TV will livestream the event starting at 11:15 AM EST.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. NASA the craft into space over two years ago from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The OSIRIS-REx mission is part of NASA’s $800-million project to send space probes to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
OSIRIS-REx to Take Samples From Bennu
The primary mission of OSIRIS-REx is to gather sample materials from the carbon-rich surface of Bennu and send it back to Earth for scientific analysis. Researchers theorized that Bennu’s solid composition had remained the same since its formation some 4.5 billion years ago.
If their theory is correct, the samples could potentially hold helpful clues about the origin of our solar system.
Should the probe successfully reach Bennu, it will explore the surface of the space rock for about a year. ON its way it will collect significant information such as its mass, composition, and topography. Using an 11-foot long robotic arm called TAGSAM, the spacecraft will suck up dust samples from the asteroid’s surface.
The collected material will then be sent back to Earth and will arrive in 2023. If successful, the sample will be the largest collection of alien material brought back to Earth since the Apollo mission. It will also be the first asteroid sample retrieval mission by NASA.