NASA is wrapping up its preparations for the touchdown on Earth of a treasured asteroid pattern subsequent month.
Groups with the company’s OSIRIS-REx mission carried out a vital check on Wednesday (Aug. 30), retrieving a dummy capsule that fell to Earth within the U.S. Division of Protection’s Utah Take a look at and Coaching Vary, within the desert west of Salt Lake Metropolis.
That is the place OSIRIS-REx’s actual pattern capsule, containing about 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of fabric from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, will contact down on Sept. 24.
“We at the moment are mere weeks away from receiving a chunk of photo voltaic system historical past on Earth, and this profitable drop check ensures we’re prepared,” Nicola Fox, affiliate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, mentioned in a statement on Wednesday.
“Pristine materials from asteroid Bennu will assist make clear the formation of our photo voltaic system 4.5 billion years in the past, and maybe even on how life on Earth started,” Fox added.
Associated: Dramatic sampling reveals asteroid Bennu is nothing like scientists anticipated
OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016, on a mission to review and snag samples from Bennu, a probably harmful asteroid about 1,650 ft (500 meters) broad.
The spacecraft arrived at Bennu in December 2018. It then eyed the asteroid up shut for practically two years, taking the rock’s measure and in search of good locations at which to swoop in and seize a pattern.
That second arrived in October 2020, and it got here with a good bit of drama and shock.
“We thought for positive we will contact down on a stable floor — this was an asteroid, it was a rock from outer area — however it truly responded extra like a fluid, like for those who dropped your self right into a ball pit at a kids’s playground,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the College of Arizona, mentioned throughout a press convention on Wednesday.
“The excellent news was, due to that actually smooth floor, we collected an unlimited quantity of fabric,” he added.
That materials is now winging its solution to Earth aboard OSIRIS-REx, whose title is brief for “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, and Safety–Regolith Explorer.” The mission staff has been training for its arrival for some time now, conducting a collection of checks this spring and summer time. Wednesday’s capsule restoration is a part of the final main observe run, NASA officers mentioned.
After the capsule touches down, it will likely be transported to a clear room on the Utah navy vary, the place it’ll processed. The Bennu materials will then be despatched to NASA’s Johnson Area Middle in Houston, the place or not it’s curated.
Over the approaching months and years, a few of this asteroid materials can be despatched to scientists world wide, who will examine it for clues about how our photo voltaic system shaped and developed.
Researchers may even search for proof of natural molecules, the carbon-containing constructing blocks of life. Carbon-rich asteroids like Bennu are thought to have delivered a lot of this materials to our planet, together with a number of water, by means of impacts way back.
OSIRIS-REx is not touchdown on Earth subsequent month, by the way in which: The probe will preserve flying, on an prolonged mission to discover the asteroid Apophis.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to reach at Apophis — like Bennu, a probably hazardous asteroid — in 2029.