The US space agency NASA has announced that it will touchdown on Bennu. It said that the OSIRIS-REx will land on the asteroid to collect a sample. OSIRIS-REx is an asteroid-study and sample-return mission by NASA. It was launched in 2016. The spacecraft circled the asteroid for almost two years. The agency said that if the spacecraft’s first attempt fails, it will try again. The aim is to collect a handful of rubble from Bennu’s surface. Bennu was discovered in 1999. It is classified as a carbonaceous asteroid. It is located hundreds of millions of miles away from Earth. The Apollo group asteroid is believed to be a hazardous object.
If NASA successfully collects samples, it will be the second time for any agency to collect asteroid samples and return to Earth. The feat has been accomplished only by Japan to date. NASA wants to bring back at least 60 grams of rubble from Bennu. The agency said that any collected samples will not be able to reach Earth until 2023. Earlier in July 2019, Japan’s Hayabusa2 collected samples from asteroid Ryugu. Operated by JAXA, Hayabusa2 is an asteroid sample-return mission. It was launched in 2014. It arrived at Ryugu after a journey of four years. It is likely to land on Earth in December this year. After Moon, this was the first time when an agency collected subsurface materials from a celestial body.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is a van-sized spacecraft. The spacecraft has a 3.4-meter arm. It is designed to perform maneuvers autonomously. It will touch Bennu using its arm and this contact will last five to 10 seconds. It will then shoot out nitrogen gas and suck up dirt. NASA believes that the study will help scientists learn more about the formation and evolution of the solar system. OSIRIS-REx will become the first NASA spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid. The agency has experience in bringing back comet dust and solar wind particles. But it never attempted to return a sample from an asteroid.