From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Asteroid Bennu
Mains level : Paper 3- OSIRIS-REx starts journey back to the earth
On May 11, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will depart asteroid Bennu, and start its two-year-long journey back to Earth.
- OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey its surface and collect a sample from it.
- The mission was launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018 and since then, the spacecraft has been trying to match the velocity of the asteroid using small rocket thrusters.
- It also utilised this time to survey the surface and identify potential sites to take samples.
- In October 2020, the spacecraft briefly touched asteroid Bennu, from where it collected samples of dust and pebbles.
- Once the surface was disturbed, the spacecraft’s robotic arm captured some samples.
- The spacecraft’s engineers have also confirmed that shortly after the spacecraft made contact with the surface, it fired its thrusters and “safely backed away from Bennu”.
- Bennu is considered to be an ancient asteroid that has not gone through a lot of composition-altering change through billions of years, which means that below its surface lie chemicals and rocks from the birth of the solar system.
- Around 20-40 percent of Bennu’s interior is empty space and scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s creation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
- Bennu is a B-type asteroid, implying that it contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
- Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about four per cent of the light that hits it, which is very low when compared with a planet.
- Bennu is named after an Egyptian deity.
- The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.