4 December 2018
The AP reports that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached the Bennu asteroid Monday “after a two-year chase,” pulling within 12 miles of the space rock. The spacecraft will move “even closer in the days ahead and go into orbit around Bennu on Dec. 31,” the first time a spacecraft has “ever orbited such a small cosmic body.” The mission is the first US attempt to “gather asteroid samples for return to Earth, something only Japan has accomplished so far.” The Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft “will shadow the asteroid for a year, before scooping up some gravel for return to Earth in 2023.” Scientists believe that material from a “carbon-rich asteroid like dark Bennu” could “hold evidence dating back to the beginning of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago.” OSIRIS-REx aims to collect around two ounces of dust and gravel by using a “10-foot (3-meter) mechanical arm in 2020 to momentarily touch down and vacuum up particles.” (Image Credit: NASA)
More Info (Associated Press)