NASA’s Osiris-Rex set to land on asteroid Bennu Tuesday: Find out how to watch stay


Artist’s conception of NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft accumulating a pattern from the asteroid Bennu.

NASA/Goddard/College of Arizona

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft will briefly contact down on a big asteroid Tuesday and seize some rocks and mud from its floor to be returned to Earth for research. The occasion marks a main first for NASA and a possible boon for science, house exploration and our understanding of the photo voltaic system. Lockheed Martin Area will stream the daring mission stay Tuesday and now we have the whole lot you must know concerning the mission and tips on how to watch proper right here.

The touch-and-go (TAG) pattern assortment of asteroid 101955 Bennu is ready to go down on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at round 3:12 p.m. PT. NASA will broadcast the TAG maneuver stay on NASA TV and the company’s web site beginning at 2 p.m. PT Tuesday. Yow will discover the livestream hyperlink under.

When did the mission start?

Osiris-Rex as an idea has been in existence since at the very least 2004, when a group of astronomers first proposed the thought to NASA. After greater than a decade of growth, the spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sept. 8, 2016, atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, a three way partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft spent the following 26 months cruising to Bennu, formally arriving on Dec. 3, 2018.

Since then, the mission group has spent almost two years orbiting the diamond-shaped house rock, surveying and mapping its floor to pick out the perfect sampling spot. In current months, rehearsals have begun forward of the upcoming pattern assortment try, and now the group says it is able to play TAG with Bennu.

Why Bennu?

Bennu is what’s referred to as a “rubble pile” asteroid, which means it was fashioned within the deep cosmic previous when gravity slowly pressured collectively remnants of an historic collision. The result’s a physique formed one thing like a spinning prime with a diameter of round a 3rd of a mile (500 meters) and a floor strewn with massive rocks and boulders. 

Bennu is considered a window into the photo voltaic system’s previous: a pristine, carbon-rich physique carrying the constructing blocks of each planets and life. A few of these sources, comparable to water and metals, may be value mining in some unspecified time in the future sooner or later to be used on Earth or in house exploration. 

The asteroid has one different attribute that makes it notably fascinating to scientists, and people generally — it has an opportunity of impacting Earth within the distant future. On NASA’s record of influence dangers, Bennu is ranked No. 2. Present information exhibits dozens of potential impacts within the remaining quarter of the 22nd century, though all solely have a minute likelihood of truly coming to move. 

How will TAG work?

For anybody who’s ever dabbled with robots or possibly even entered a robotics competitors, the Osiris-Rex mission would appear to be the final word end result of a younger roboticist’s goals. The touch-and-go sampling process is a posh, high-stakes job that is been constructing to a key climactic second for years. If it succeeds, it is going to play a job in historical past and our future in house. 

The fundamental plan is that Osiris-Rex will contact down on Bennu at a rocky touchdown web site dubbed Nightingale. The van-size spacecraft might want to negotiate building-size boulders across the touchdown space to the touch down on a comparatively clear house that is solely as massive as just a few parking areas. Nonetheless, a robotic sampling arm would be the solely a part of Osiris-Rex to truly set down on the floor. Certainly one of three pressurized nitrogen canisters will fireplace to fire up a pattern of mud and small rocks that may then be caught within the arm’s collector head for protected retaining and return to Earth. 

The descent to the floor of Bennu will take roughly 4 hours, concerning the time it takes the asteroid to make one full revolution. After this sluggish method, the precise TAG pattern assortment process remarkably lasts lower than 16 seconds. 

Making ready for TAG has not gone precisely as deliberate. Mission organizers initially hoped the floor of Bennu would have loads of potential touchdown spots coated primarily with positive supplies corresponding to sand or gravel. It seems the floor of Bennu is extraordinarily rugged with no actual welcoming touchdown spots. 

After spending a lot of the final two years reevaluating the mission, the group determined to strive “threading the needle” by the boulder-filled panorama at Nightingale and a pair different backup pattern websites. It is nonetheless potential the floor will show to be too rocky to get pattern. If this seems to be the case, the group might decide to strive once more at a distinct web site. Osiris-Rex is supplied with three nitrogen canisters to fireside and disrupt the floor, which implies the group will get as much as three tries at nabbing a pattern. 

Then what?

Instantly after accumulating its pattern, Osiris-Rex will fireplace its thrusters to again away from Bennu. The spacecraft will proceed to hold round above Bennu for the remainder of 2020 earlier than lastly performing a departure maneuver subsequent 12 months and starting a two-year journey again to Earth. 

On Sept. 24, 2023, Osiris-Rex is scheduled to jettison its pattern return capsule, which is able to land within the Utah desert and be recovered for research. 

Hasn’t this been achieved earlier than?

Sure. Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft efficiently returned tiny grains of the asteroid 25143 Itokawa to Earth in 2010. Its successor, Hayabusa-2, efficiently fired a particular copper bullet on the massive asteroid Ryugu in 2019 after which retrieved among the shrapnel. That pattern is presently on its manner again to Earth.  

How can I watch? 

Comply with NASA’s livestream, which kicks off Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT. You may also comply with the Osiris-Rex Twitter feed to get the most recent updates. 

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