NASA Shares Photos from 'Touch-and-Go' with Asteroid Bennu 200 Million Miles Away

NASA asteroid mission

A NASA spacecraft on Tuesday conducted the US space agency's first sample collection from an asteroid as part of a seven-year-long voyage.

This illustration shows NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descending towards asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of the asteroid's surface.

"The fact that we safely and successfully touched the surface of Bennu, in addition to all the other milestones this mission has already achieved, is a testament to the living spirit of exploration that continues to uncover the secrets of the Solar System". The above video is made up of 82 photos, covering a five-minute period from an altitude of about 25 metres (82 feet), through the touchdown, then as the spacecraft fires its thrusters to bounce away to an altitude of 13 metres (43 feet). The confirmation signal reached Earth at 6:11 pm ET. Any extra mass on board will change the level of torque required to turn the probe, compared with the level that was needed to perform the same rotation exercise prior to sample acquisition. On October 20, 2020, it successfully approached Bennu and collected a sample.

Bennu is 332 million kilometres from Earth. "Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material, and the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds".

Touch-and-go, or TAG, is a sample collection of ships 101955 Benu The PT was considered a success around 3 p.m. NASA has launched Nag TV and TV Agency website.

NASA asteroid mission
NASA reports its asteroid-sampling mission was a success

A nitrogen gas bottle then fired on the surface to stir up material and suck it up in a "rubble shower".

The spacecraft, about the size of a large van, slowed down to a crawl of just 10 centimeters (four inches) per second on the final phase of its descent into the Nightingale crater on the north pole of the asteroid, which is 490 meters (1,600 feet) in diameter.

The agency shared footage of the historic mission captured by the SamCam instrument, which is one of the three cameras in the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite. By comparing images of Nightingale from before and after the operation, the team should be able to estimate how much material it collected.

"Due to the low gravity, we can't actually land on the surface of Bennu".

After spending the last two years re-evaluating the mission, the team made a decision to try "threading the needle" through the boulder-filled landscape at Nightingale.

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Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life.

Enos hopes for a "completely full capsule" that represents Bennu's carbon-rich compositon and hydrated minerals, both discovered based on observations and data sent back by OSIRIS-REx over the last two years. If there is at least 60 grams, OSIRIS-REx will depart from Bennu in March 2021 and begin its journey back to Earth. OSIRIS-REx was launched on september 8, 2016 and is expected to return to Earth on september 24, 2023.

This is because Bennu is as old as the solar system itself - about 4.5 billion years - and could provide clues on how life began on Earth.

Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission - in the milligrams at most - to land in the Australian desert in December.

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