10 Reasons Why NASA is Visiting Asteroid Bennu

Artist’s concept of asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

After traveling for two years and billions of kilometers from Earth, the OSIRIS-REx probe is only a few months away from its destination: the intriguing asteroid Bennu. When it arrives in December, OSIRIS-REx will embark on a nearly two-year investigation of this clump of rock, mapping its terrain and finding a safe and fruitful site from which to collect a sample.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign

REENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

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Two Pieces of a Cosmic Puzzle: Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx

Originally published by OSIRIS-REx Mission/University of Arizona
Republished with permission

It began with dust. Before there were asteroids, or planets, or people – about 4.6 billion years ago – a cloud of dust and gas swirled in the cosmos. At the center, a star began to form.

With heat and shock waves, clumps of this ancient dust coalesced into droplets of molten rock called chondrules. These chondrules and dust became the building blocks of the Solar System. Eventually, chunks of material as large as asteroids, and even planets, formed from this cloud and organized according to the laws of physics around a newly born star: our Sun.

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OSIRIS-REx Continues Cruise Toward Asteroid Bennu

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — OSIRIS-REx is continuing outbound cruise operations, en route to arrival in August of 2018 at the asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft is currently 29.6 million miles (47.6 million kilometers) from Earth and is executing a program designed to study and reduce the presence of water on the spacecraft.

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NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
(Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

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Canadian Technology Launched Aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

This is an artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney
This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — The Government of Canada recognizes the valuable contributions of the nation’s researchers as they continue to explore new frontiers in science. Today, Canadian-built technology launched on board a NASA spacecraft that is en route to a mysterious asteroid named Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx launch occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:05 p.m. EDT and was attended by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. She was joined on site by Sylvain Laporte, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and Dr. Erick Dupuis, the CSA‘s Director of Space Exploration Development.

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NASA Prepares to Launch Asteroid Sample Return Mission

The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is preparing to launch its first mission to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

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