Probe OSIRIS-REx, launched two years ago, sat on a celestial body of Benn.
The OSIRIS-Rex mission blasted off from Florida in September 2016 and will finally reach the asteroid called Bennu today after a gruelling journey of over a billion miles.
NASA's first-ever mission created to visit an asteroid and return a sample of its dust back to Earth arrives Monday at its destination, Bennu, two years after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
There is also the possibility the asteroid sample could be rich in a valuable material that could be extracted for use on earth. OSIRIS-REx will cautiously approach its target before slipping into orbit for more than two years of scientific observations.
The sample from Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, could help scientists understand not only more about asteroids that could impact Earth but about how planets formed and life began. It will spend a year in orbit, surveying the surface of the Potentially Hazardous Object (PHO) before settling on a location for the key phase of its mission: a sample return to Earth.
The information from this mission could also help if the asteroid Bennu is at risk of hitting Earth in the future.
OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration.
OSIRIS-REx may be able to aid in preventing such events.
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"The spacecraft is already in Bennu's gravitational* influence and, according to NASA's calculations, is set to officially arrive in orbit, just 2km above the asteroid, on Tuesday at around 4am AEDT*", CSIRO* tracking station spokesman Glen Nagle said.
The spacecraft is slated to return to Earth in September 2023. The seven-year mission involved a close-up survey of the asteroid Bennu and collection of sample from Bennu's surface and return to Earth for study.
Meanwhile, a Japanese probe is circling an asteroid named Ryugu, about double the size of Bennu, with a plan to bring home some specks of space dust.
Mission team members want to make sure they nail down Bennu's mass and precise shape before slipping into orbit around the asteroid on December 31.
Bennu, a diamond-shaped asteroid with 500-meter diameter, is believed to contain organics necessary to form life and retain materials from the beginning of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
'We have arrived, ' technicians announced, spurring high-fives and clapping around the control room.
The asteroid Bennu is of interest to Earth for another reason. "Now we're at it again, working with our partners in the USA and Canada to accomplish the Herculean task of bringing back to Earth a piece of the early solar system".
'Bennu is likely rich in organic molecules, which are made of chains of carbon bonded with atoms of oxygen, hydrogen, and other elements in a chemical recipe that makes all known living things. The rapid rotation also sends small rocks on the asteroid's surface flying into space, meaning there's nothing there for the spacecraft to collect. Bennu's nearly 500 meters in diameter, and rotates only once every 4.3 hours.