What is NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission and significance of its mission
Why in the News?
- In 2020, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft briefly touched asteroid Bennu, from where it collected samples of dust and pebbles.
- From May 2021, OSIRIS-REx will depart from asteroid Bennu, and start its two-year long journey back to Earth.
What is asteroid Bennu and why is it selected?
- Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets.
- 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.
- Another reason for tracking asteroids is to look for potentially hazardous asteroids.
- OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey its surface and collect a sample from it.
- Therefore, scientists and researchers are interested in studying this asteroid as it might give them hints about the origins of the solar system, the sun, the Earth and the other planets.
What is the OSIRIS-REx mission?
- This is NASA’s first mission meant to return a sample from the ancient asteroid. The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
- As per NASA, the mission promises to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to our planet since the Apollo era.
- 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.
- The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
- Extraterrestrial materials are researched and compared with other known materials.
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