Bringing back to Earth samples from an asteroid can only be beneficial for the entire humanity. Astronomers need to know what other cosmic bodies are made of as long as they’re hurtling across our solar system. Of course, it would be great if scientists will gather data of bodies from other solar systems as well, but they’re too far away for any known spaceship.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was sent to the Bennu asteroid by NASA with the purpose of bringing some of the object’s rocks back to Earth. This new footage proves it:
Well, I definitely touched down on Bennu!
Preliminary data show the sampling head touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds, within 3 feet (1 meter) of the targeted location. #ToBennuAndBack
— NASA's OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 21, 2020
The tiny spacecraft already spent two years studying Bennu from a distance, as it was orbiting around the space object.
Bennu measures 500 meters across
There’s no way that the Bennu asteroid will hit Earth in the near future, but it can surely cause a lot of damage if it does. However, scientists calculated that Bennu has a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of colliding with our planet between 2175 and 2199.
The main investigator Dante Lauretta declares:
Bottom line is from analysis of the images that we’ve gotten down so far, is that the sampling event went really well, as good as we could have imagined it would,
And I think the chances that there’s material inside […] have gone way up way up based on the analysis of the images.
There’s no wonder why astronomers hope to bring some samples of Bennu to Earth. The asteroid could contain building blocks of life, according to new research based on data gathered by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Evidence of organic and carbon-bearing materials spread across the surface of the asteroid was found. However, we shouldn’t expect to find any little green men willing to shake hands with us on the asteroid, as bacterial life is much more probable.
The Bennu asteroid was named after the ancient Egyptian mythological bird that’s associated with the Sun, creation, and rebirth.