An area capsule carrying a pattern of rocky materials faraway from the floor of an asteroid three years in the past is predicted to make a parachute touchdown within the Utah desert on Sunday.
If profitable, the OSIRIS-REx mission, a joint effort between NASA and scientists on the College of Arizona, would mark the third asteroid pattern, and by far the most important, ever returned to Earth for evaluation.
OSIRIS-REx collected its samples from Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid, earlier than embarking on a 1.9-billion-km (1.2-billion-mile) journey again to Earth in Could 2021.
What’s the OSIRIS-REx?
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is an unmanned spacecraft from NASA that was despatched to gather samples from Bennu.
The spacecraft was geared up with cameras to seize photos that have been important to amassing samples from the asteroid in the course of the mission. It was additionally geared up with supplies to develop 3D maps of Bennu, measure its temperature, map its mineral and chemical composition, and consider it in X-rays and infrared mild.
The robotic arm hooked up to the spacecraft collected free rocks and filth from the asteroid’s floor, which have been then sealed contained in the pattern return capsule.
This capsule separated from the spacecraft and started its fiery plunge by Earth’s environment.
What do we all know in regards to the spacecraft’s journey?
The OSIRIS-REx launched from Florida on September 8, 2016.
In September 2017, the spacecraft used the assistance of the Earth’s gravity to propel itself on its lengthy journey in direction of Bennu, reaching the asteroid on December 3, 2018.
In Could 2021, the spacecraft started its journey again to Earth.
The place and when will the pattern land on Earth?
The pattern is predicted to return to Earth on Sunday at 14:55 GMT.
The capsule containing the pattern will parachute all the way down to the Utah Take a look at and Coaching Vary in Utah’s West Desert, the place scientists will likely be ready to retrieve it.
Are the asteroid samples harmful?
The pattern won’t include contaminants corresponding to viruses or micro organism, Harold Connolly, who is predicated at Rowan College and is the OSIRIS-REx mission pattern scientist and a co-investigator, advised Al Jazeera.
He made a comparability with materials taken from Apollo 11 lunar samples, which triggered comparable considerations on the time. After utilizing animals to check that materials, it was declared protected.
No microbial growths have been discovered and NASA determined it was protected sufficient to cease additional animal testing or quarantining astronauts and lab technicians working with lunar samples after the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
What can we learn about Bennu?
Bennu, beforehand referred to as 1999 RQ36, was found in 1999 and categorized as a “near-Earth object” as a result of it passes comparatively near our planet each six years. It’s a small asteroid, rather less than 500 metres in depth and is greater than 4.5 billion years outdated.
Over time, the asteroid has drifted nearer to Earth, intently approaching it each six years. Scientists estimate that one in every of these shut approaches has a small likelihood of impacting the Earth on September 24, 2182.
Why was OSIRIS-REx despatched to Bennu?
The mission was launched in order that scientists may learn to higher predict the long-term dangers of near-Earth asteroids corresponding to Bennu hitting our planet.
Scientists additionally imagine that inside 10 million years of the photo voltaic system’s formation, Bennu’s present-day chemical and mineral composition was already fashioned.
Telescopes have proven that the asteroid accommodates carbon-rich natural materials, which can have performed a job in delivering life-forming compounds to Earth. A part of OSIRIS-REx’s mission was to be taught extra about these compounds.
Scientists have additionally hoped to find out if there are any signs of water on the asteroid, and to research whether or not hydrogen and oxygen might be extracted from the water on asteroids to gasoline rockets in area.
— NASA Goddard (@NASAGoddard) September 21, 2023
What is going to occur to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after the mission?
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will likely be renamed to OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-APophis Explorer) and be despatched to review one other near-Earth asteroid, Apophis, when it comes near the Earth in 2029.
“It’s a wonderfully viable spacecraft that may do extra science, and NASA was sensible to repurpose it and get new science out of it by going to Apophis,” stated Connolly.
How can I comply with the touchdown?
You may watch the dwell protection of the OSIRIS-REx capsule touchdown on Sunday utilizing the NASA Live link.