As tall as one of America’s sky-scrapers and located at a not-so-far distance of 200 million miles, Bennu, the asteroid named after an Egyptian deity was briefly touched by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx to deliver fist-full of dust and pebble samples to Earth by 2020!
As for asteroid, they are like giant rock-like objects that orbit the sun, much like planets with some even being called minor planets. These according to NASA, are the remnants that came about when the solar system came into being as far back as 4.6 billion years ago. Anyone familiar with Saturn’s rings would know that they sometimes constitute an entire world to themselves.
As for the OSIRIS-REx mission which was launched in 2016, its NASA’s first to bring in samples from this asteroid and would constitute a seven-year voyage which is expected to bring rare samples of rocks and dust from a far- away object in space. It covered the distance in 2 years itself with the balance time spent surveying the surface to identify the most suitable sites to pick up samples from. To do the job, the mission has cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
The mission shall depart in 2021 and reach Earth in 2023.
The reason for the interest in this particular asteroid is that by comparison it is passing quite close to earth. Second, there’s been no change in its composition from the time it came into being which is good to stuck the origins of the solar system. For scientists this paints an incredible scenario to study how the earth came about, and how life itself evolved out here. Photo by Terence Burke on Unsplash