World News – US – Touch-and-go: US spacecraft samples asteroid for return

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Marcia Dunn, Associated Press

Marcia Dunn, Associated Press

CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– After nearly two years circling an ancient asteroid hundreds of millions of miles away, a NASA spacecraft will attempt this week to descend to the treacherous, boulder-filled surface and tear off a handful of rubble

The drama unfolds on Tuesday as the US takes its first crack in collecting asteroid samples for return to Earth, a feat so far accomplished only by Japan

Bursting with names inspired by Egyptian mythology, the Osiris-Rex mission seeks to bring back at least 60 grams of asteroid Bennu, the largest otherworldly transport from beyond the moon

The van-sized spaceship targets the relatively flat middle of a tennis court-sized crater named Nightingale – a place comparable to a few parking spots here on Earth Boulders as large as buildings appear above the targeted hit zone

« So for a bit of a step back, the next time you park your car in front of your house or a cafe and step inside, think about the challenge of navigating Osiris-Rex in one of these places 200 million kilometers away far, « said Mike Moreau, deputy director of the NASA project

Once it has fallen from its half mile high (075 kilometers high) around Bennu, the spacecraft will deliberately take four hours to descend, just above the surface

Then the action picks up when the 11-foot (34-meter) Osiris-Rex with outstretched arm and touches Bennu.The contact should last five to 10 seconds, just long enough to spray pressurized nitrogen gas and suck up churned dirt and gravel Programmed in advance, the spacecraft will operate autonomously during the unprecedented tactile maneuver With an 18-minute delay in radio communications in each direction, ground controllers at spacecraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin near Denver cannot intervene

If the first attempt does not work, Osiris-Rex can try again Samples collected will not reach Earth before 2023

While NASA has brought back comet dust and solar wind particles, it has never attempted to sample any of the nearly one million known asteroids hidden in our solar system until Now Japan, meanwhile, expects to get samples from asteroid Ryugu in December – in milligrams at most – 10 years after bringing back spots from asteroid Itokawa

The big black, rounded, carbon-rich space rock – taller than New York’s Empire State Building – was there when our solar system was 4 5 billion years ago Scientists consider it a time capsule full of immaculate building blocks that could help explain how life formed on Earth and possibly elsewhere

« It’s about understanding where we come from, » said mission lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona

Solar orbiting asteroid, which oscillates around Earth every six years, could target us at the end of the next century NASA puts the odds of an impact at 1 in 2,700 More scientists will know about potentially threatening asteroids like Bennu, the safer Earth will be

When Osiris-Rex took off in 2016 on a mission worth over $ 800 million, scientists envisioned stretches of sand at Bennu So the spacecraft was designed to ingest small pebbles smaller than an inch (2 centimeters) in diameter

Scientists were amazed to find massive rocks and gravel everywhere when the spacecraft arrived in 2018, and pebbles were sometimes seen shooting the asteroid, falling back and sometimes ricocheting again in a cosmic ping game -pong

With so much rugged terrain, engineers scrambled to aim for a spot narrower than initially expected Nightingale Crater, the primary target, appears to have the greatest abundance of fine-grained, but boulders still abound, including the one dubbed Mount Doom

The team fell behind schedule and pushed back the second and final touch-and-go dress rehearsal for the spacecraft until August This pushed the sample taking until October

« It is difficult to return a sample, » said NASA chief science officer Thomas Zurbuchen « COVID has made things even more difficult »

Osiris-Rex has three bottles of nitrogen gas, which means he can land three times – no more

The spaceship will automatically reverse if it encounters unexpected dangers like large boulders that could tip it over And there’s a chance it will land safely, but fail to collect enough rubble

Either way, the spacecraft would return to orbit around Bennu and try again in January at a different location

With the first test finally arrived, Lauretta is worried, nervous, excited « and confident that we have done everything possible to ensure safe sampling »

Left:
This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu, made up of 12 PolyCam images collected on December 2, 2018 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at a distance of 24 km Photo by NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Document via Reuters

Marcia Dunn, Associated Press

Marcia Dunn, Associated Press

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News from the world – United States – Touch-and-go: American spacecraft samples asteroid for return


SOURCE: https://www.w24news.com

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