NASA decided to send the OSIRIS-REx mission to take a closer look at the asteroid Bennu once again, before the spacecraft begins its journey back to Earth. The new visit to the space rock will take place on Wednesday (7).
According to the American space agency, the spacecraft will fly over just 3.7 km away from the Bennu’s surface, with the aim of verifying the damage caused during the quick landing of the asteroid mission, on October 20 of the year. past.
At that time, the OSIRIS-REx sampling head sank 48.6 cm into the surface of the celestial body and fired a pressurized charge of nitrogen gas to collect samples. According to NASA, such events, combined with the weak gravity of the asteroid, had a “dramatic effect” on the site, sending a lot of rocks and dust.
With the new overflight, the mission team will use the PolyCam instrument to generate high-resolution images of the northern and southern hemispheres of the rock, as well as its equatorial region. Scientists want to compare the records with some made in 2019, when the spacecraft performed a similar procedure, to verify the changes associated with landing.
Journey back to Earth
After this new approach to Bennu, the spacecraft will take a few days to transmit the flyby data to the mission control center, meaning that the details of the procedure will not be revealed for now.
The next step for OSIRIS-REx is to start the return journey to the planet, scheduled to happen around May 10th. As it approaches Earth, it will release a capsule containing the collected pieces and dust, which is expected to enter the Earth’s atmosphere on September 24, 2023.
This material collected from the asteroid will allow us to study the formation of the Solar System and the origins of life on Earth.