NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft arrives at asteroid Bennu

• NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft completed its 1.2 billion-mile (2 billion-kilometer) journey to arrive at the asteroid Bennu Monday.

• The spacecraft executed a maneuver that transitioned it from flying toward Bennu to operating around the asteroid.

Aim of this project

• The primary science goals of this survey are to refine estimates of Bennu’s mass and spin rate, and to generate a more precise model of its shape.

• The data will help determine potential sites for later sample collection.

• OSIRIS-REx’s mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

• Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life. Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals.

• Future space exploration and economic development may rely on asteroids for these materials.

Crucial highlights

• The mission’s navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid.

• The spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu on Dec. 31 — thus making Bennu, which is only about 1,600 feet (492 meters) across or about the length of five football fields — the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft.

• It’s a critical step in OSIRIS-REx’s years-long quest to collect and eventually deliver at least two ounces (60 grams) of regolith dirt and rocks from Bennu to Earth.

• OSIRIS-REx performed a series of braking maneuvers to slow the spacecraft down as it approached Bennu.

• These maneuvers also targeted a trajectory to set up Monday’s maneuver, which initiates the first north pole flyover and marks the spacecraft’s arrival at Bennu.

• OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration. It will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era.

• It’s the first to study a primitive B-type asteroid, which is an asteroid that’s rich in carbon and organic molecules that make up life on Earth.

• It is also the first mission to study a potentially hazardous asteroid and try to determine the factors that alter their courses to bring them close to Earth.

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Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

Prelims level: Osiris-Rex

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives

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