NASA’s “OSIRIS-REx Mission” to begin return from “Asteroid Bennu”

What is the News?

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission will depart from asteroid Bennu and start its two-year-long journey back to Earth.

About OSIRIS-REx Mission:
  • OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.
  • The mission was launched in 2016. It was the first U.S. mission to successfully collect a sample from an asteroid.
  • Aim: To travel to a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study.
  • Instruments: The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu. This includes cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
  • Duration: The mission is essentially a seven-year-long. The mission will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
Asteroid Bennu:
  • Asteroid Bennu is named after an Egyptian deity. It is as tall as the Empire State Building. It is located about 200 million miles away from the Earth.
  • A team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999 discovered the asteroid.
Characteristics of Asteroid Bennu:
  • Firstly, Bennu is a B-type asteroid. It contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
    • Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about 4% of the light that hits it. The reflection is very low when compared with Venus(reflects about 65% of the light). Earth reflects about 30%.
  • Secondly, Around 20-40% of Bennu’s interior is empty. This means that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s creation which is roughly around 4.5 billion years old.
  • Lastly, Bennu is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO). So, it has a possibility to strike the Earth in the next century between the years 2175 and 2199.
    • NEOs are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets orbits. This allows them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
Why study Asteroid Bennu?
  • Asteroid Bennu is considered to be an ancient asteroid. Further, it has not gone through a lot of composition-altering changes for billions of years. This means that below the surface of Bennu the chemicals and rocks lie in the same form since the birth of the solar system.
  • Therefore, scientists and researchers are interested in studying this asteroid. As it might give them clues about the origins of the solar system, the sun, the Earth and the other planets.
What are Asteroids?
  • Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun. They are much smaller than planets, so they are also called minor planets. According to NASA, there are around 994,383 known asteroids.
  • Scientists study asteroids to:
    • Asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system. So, the scientists will look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun
    • Another reason for tracking them is to look for potentially hazardous asteroids.

Source: Indian Express

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