US space agency NASA is scheduled to execute another historic mission next month. The OSIRIS-REx probe is scheduled to collect samples from an asteroid for the first time on 20 October. This craft will take samples of dust and pebbles from Asteroid Bennu. Bennu is one of the 22 asteroids that the space agency is eyeing for the next 100 years.
Land will touch after two years
OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta is very excited about this mission. He is confident that he is ready for the challenge. This challenge is also very big. OSIRIS-REx has been circling Bennu for two years and observing the movement of Space Rocks. It will now land on a crater named Nightingale, spiraling. There is an area just 8 meters wide for its landing where it has to land.
Challenge is this landing
This will be a big task in itself. Around it are small buildings such as rocky structures. It would be difficult to handle the spacecraft in a small area between them. The special thing is that OSIRIS-REx will have to do this work on its own. Actually, there is an 18-minute gap between the earth and the signal from where it is. Therefore, it would not be possible for scientists to ‘park’ it in real-time.
Why is this crater special?
When Bennu was first spotted with the help of equipment on Earth, it was speculated that OSIRIS-REx would get at least 50 meters to land, but there were far more rocks. Apart from this, the Nightingale crater is also very important from the sample point of view. The months here are dust, pebbles and stones which have not come in contact with the surrounding environment for a long time.
OSIRIS-REx will not spend much time in Nightingale. It has a sampling mechanism on a 3.4 meter robotic arm. It will touch the surface in few seconds. The dust of the crater will blow through the blast of nitrogen gas and collect in the sampling head. Scientists need at least 60 grams of sample. If there is not so much dust here, then on October 30, it will be decided what to do next. The second attempt will be made only after January 2021 on the backup site Osprey.
Raj will reveal ‘Time Capsule’
If all goes well, OSIRIS-REx will fly from Bennu to Earth on March 2021 and land in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023. With the help of its sample, scientists will study about the introduction of solar system. These samples can also reveal the secrets of how life started on Earth. In fact, many researchers believe that life was born here due to the collision of asteroids with the earth. NASA officials call asteroids a ‘time capsule’ because they were made up of planets as well as leftover material.