This artist's concept shows the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft contacting the asteroid Bennu with the Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism or TAGSAM. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Lands On The Bennu Asteroid

The Discovery of Water

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx arrived at the Bennu asteroid on December 3rd, 2 years after launching from Earth. The space probe has detected water on the asteroid, giving us new facts about the evolution of the solar system. NASA suggests that water was common in our early solar system. This is important because we are still trying to understand how planets form over time.

The spacecraft will spend a year mapping the 1,600 foot in dynamiter asteroid and collect samples of its rocky soil with the use its robotic arm. In 2020 the OSIRIS-REx will leave the asteroid and return the samples to Earth for further study in 2023. This will be the first asteroid sample return mission in space exploration history.

In Recent data from NASA’s Origins, the mission has revealed water locked inside the clay that makes up this asteroid. The current readouts by the spacecraft suggest that there is a presence of molecules that contain oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together. This is known as “hydroxyls.” It can be assumed that the presence of this molecular bond exists across the asteroid. What this could mean is that at some point, Bennu’s rocky material interacted with water. The asteroid is too small to have ever hosted any liquid water, but the finding does indicate that flowing water was present at some point in time on Bennu’s origin.

This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft has arrived at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years ( NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP )
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. ( NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona via AP )

Eerily enough, Bennu is now about 73 million miles from Earth and is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid. There’s a one in 2,700 chance that this giant asteroid will collide with Earth in the 22nd century.

Could this possibly be our “Armageddon”, slowly headed our way? Let’s hope that in the near future, we have the means of deviating this asteroid’s course away from our home planet.

A still image from the movie Armageddon of the team drilling into an asteroid.

For more information go to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

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