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NASA In “Touch” With An Asteroid

21 Oct 2020, 2:15 pm

Tuesday marked another milestone mission for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with a successful attempt using NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) to obtain a sample from an ancient asteroid.  Known as Bennu, this asteroid is located more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth and remains well-preserved since it’s existence began billions of years ago.

This mission, which began in 2016, could provide crucial information about our early solar system and how it played a role stemming life on our planet.  In case you did not know, asteroids are what’s left over from early creation of the planets across the solar system, full of natural resources including metals, water, and organics.

“This amazing first for NASA demonstrates how an incredible team from across the country came together and persevered through incredible challenges to expand the boundaries of knowledge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands.”

Captured on Oct. 20, during the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event, this series of 82 images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches and touches down on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The sampling event brought the spacecraft all the way down to sample site Nightingale, and the team on Earth received confirmation of successful touchdown at 6:08 p.m. EDT. Preliminary data show the sampling head touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

This asteroid sample will be the first-ever for NASA, and only the beginning of studying part of our galaxy’s history.

“It’s hard to put into words how exciting it was to receive confirmation that the spacecraft successfully touched the surface and fired one of the gas bottles,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.


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