Why in News?
- NASA’s spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx which scientists believe has collected samples from asteroid Bennu, began its two-year journey back to Earth.
About the spacecraft
- OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey its surface and collect a sample from it. Japan is the only other country to have accomplished such a feat.
- Scientists will use the asteroid samples to study the formation of the solar system and of habitable planets such as Earth.
- NASA will also distribute a part of the samples to laboratories worldwide and will reserve about 75 per cent of the samples for future generations who can study it with technologies not yet created.
What is asteroid Bennu?
- Bennu is believed to have been born in the Main Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and because of gravitational tugs from other celestial objects and the slight push asteroids get when they release absorbed sunlight, the asteroid is coming closer to Earth.
- Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets. According to NASA, 994,383 is the count for known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.
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