After a two-year chase, a NASA probe has reached the old asteroid Bennu. Robotic researcher Osiris-Rex pulled from the diamond-shaped object within 19 kilometers (19 miles) on Monday and will be in orbit on December 31. No spaceship has ever orbited such a small body.
Bennu is considered a potentially dangerous asteroid – he is said to be on Earth for about 150 years. If it collided with the earth, Bennu would probably cause a crater.
Osiris-Rex wants to collect at least 60 grams (two ounces) of dust and gravel, the first US attempt after a smaller mission to another asteroid of Japan. The spacecraft will not land, but in 2020 use a three-meter-long mechanical arm to temporarily knock down and pick up particles. The sample container should go 2021 on the earth.
The parachute-to-parachute-to-Utah collection would be the largest train since the astronauts of the Apollo astronauts delivered lunar rocks to Earth in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Scientists hope to learn more about the water source in the US To experience the solar system and the origin of organic molecules from which life first emerged. Getting hold of original asteroid material could also provide clues as to how to degrade it for valuable material and defend against wayward materials that threaten the earth.
Air traffic controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives on Monday, when it was confirmed that Osiris-Rex had made it to Bennu – exactly a week after Nasa landed a spacecraft on Mars.
"Relieved, proud and eager to explore! Tweeted the senior scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. "To Bennu and back!"
Bennu is 122 kilometers away, so it took seven minutes for the air traffic controller at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado, where the spacecraft was built, to succeed.
Bennu is estimated to be over 500 meters wide. The researchers will give a more detailed description at a scientific meeting on Monday in Washington next week.
About the size of a large car, the asteroid will shade the asteroid for a year before rearing up for gravel in 2023
A Japanese spacecraft has been hanging on another near-Earth asteroid since June, also for rehearsals. It is Japan's second asteroid mission. This latest rock is called Ryugu and is about twice as big as Bennu.
Ryugu's bacon should be here by December 2020, but will be far less than the promised loot of Osiris-Rex.
NASA has previously brought cometary dust and solar wind particles, but never asteroid specimens. Japan managed to return tiny particles from its first asteroid mission called Hayabusa in 2010.
Contact with Bennu will not significantly change his orbit or make it more dangerous to Earth, Lauretta emphasized.
Osiris-Rex, $ 800 million The mission started with a launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The odometer showed a distance of 1.2 billion miles on Monday.
Both the names of the spacecraft and the asteroid come from Egyptian mythology. Osiris is the god of the hereafter, while Bennu represents the heron and the creation.
Osiris-Rex is actually NASA's acronym for Origin, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security Explosion.
Associated Press contributed to this article