‘We have ARRIVED!’ NASA’s OSIRIS spacecraft arrives at Asteroid Bennu

For God’s sake fund it’ Former NASA astronaut makes dire plea to protect us from killer asteroids

Flight controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives once confirmation came through that Osiris-Rex made it to Bennu - exactly one week after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars.

The OSIRIS-REx mission and NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, now closing in on a denizen of the Kuiper Belt a billion miles past Pluto, are both aimed at studying primitive bodies left over from the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth in September 2023, dropping the sample container off for a high-speed plunge to the Utah Test and Training Range about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City in Utah.

Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length. It will get even closer in the days ahead and go into orbit around Bennu on December 31.

One of the key goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to study the impact of the sun's heat on the orbits of asteroids with the potential to hit Earth and cause substantial damage.

The spacecraft will also carry a laser altimeter, a suite of cameras provided by the University of Arizona, spectrometers and lidar, which is similar to radar, using light instead of radio waves to measure distance.

Some of Bennu sample will be held in reserve while the rest is subjected to two years of detailed analysis.

"Bennu's low gravity provides a unique challenge for the mission", said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft arrives at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu today.

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During the five-second maneuver, compressed nitrogen gas will shoot into the collector, stirring up and lifting small rocks and soil. There is enough nitrogen for three attempts if the first is unsuccessful.

Bennu - named after a mythological Egyptian deity by a third-grade contest victor - is one of the most hazardous asteroids known to NASA because of its large size and orbit.

Scientists estimate the asteroid formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago.

NASA has brought back comet dust and solar wind particles before, but never asteroid samples.

Both Bennu and Ryugu are considered potentially hazardous asteroids. This knocked it through space until an orbit close to Earth locked it in place.

The mission will give vital information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision course with Earth.

Asteroids could even serve as fuel stations for robotic and human missions if we can unlock the hydrogen and oxygen inside them, NASA said. Osiris is the god of the afterlife, while Bennu represents the heron and creation. This could also explain how it ended up as a near-Earth asteroid.

Scientists hope it will reveal more about the early formation of the solar system, as well as how to find precious resources like metals and water in asteroids.

'Some of the mineral fragments inside Bennu could be older than the solar system.

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