NASA Is Launching An Incredible Mission To An Asteroid This Thursday

An artist's impression of OSIRIS-REx. NASA

The head of the arm will then be safely stored in a sample return capsule and brought back to Earth, with the spacecraft beginning the journey home in March 2021. In September 2023, the capsule will separate from the main spacecraft and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, with a parachute bringing it safely to the ground in the Utah desert.

This will be the largest sample returned to Earth since the Apollo missions returned material from the Moon, and it will be the first American mission to retrieve samples from an asteroid. A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa, has performed the feat before, but its sample was less than a gram in total. OSIRIS-REx will collect at least 60 grams, and as much as 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).

Bennu, which is about 490 meters (1,600 feet) across, orbits between 1.356 and 0.897 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun (one AU is the distance from Earth to the Sun) and has a very, very small chance of hitting Earth in the late 22nd century. Studying it could help us narrow down that tiny probability (about 0.037 percent) even further.

This mission will be like no other, and will give us an amazing insight into the early Solar System, which this asteroid is thought to be a remnant of. We’d highly recommend tuning in for the launch.

Do or do not, there is no try. Wait, that’s not right…

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