NASA’s first-ever mission to collect an asteroid sample will get a boost from Earth THIS Friday. On Friday, Sept. 22, Earth’s gravity will slingshot OSIRIS-REx toward its target, a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu. Scientists believe asteroids like Bennu may have seeded Earth with the organic compounds that made life possible. OSIRIS-REx — the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer — is a robotic mission that will map this asteroid and then collect a sample that it will send home to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx launched last year, but because Bennu’s orbit is tilted six degrees in comparison to Earth’s, the spacecraft needs a boost before it can get to the asteroid. Earth’s game-day assist on Sept. 22nd will position it to reach Bennu’s path in 2018. One of the best ways to change the trajectory of a spacecraft (without carrying extra fuel) is by using the gravity of a planet or large moon to catapult it, and that’s exactly how our home planet will help OSIRIS-REx match the asteroid’s path and speed.
Join NASA scientists just hours before Earth slingshots OSIRIS-REx toward asteroid Bennu – to find out why this maneuver is critical to the mission’s success, and how OSIRIS-REx could uncover the materials and processes that enabled life on Earth.
When it arrives at Bennu next year, OSIRIS-REx will map the asteroid, study its orbit and collect samples that will be sent to Earth in 2023. There are more than half a million known asteroids in our solar system, but Bennu is an ideal candidate for closer study because of its size, composition and proximity to Earth. Bennu is an artifact of the ancient solar system, a silent witness to the titanic events in our solar system’s 4.6 billion-year history.