Osiris-Rex, NASA’s spacecraft has entered into the orbit of an ancient asteroid, and a new set of record. The probe slipped into the orbit around Bennu on Monday. The asteroid is at a distance of 70 million miles from Earth, and it is the smallest celestial body which measures 1,640-foot wide. Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, said the team continued their long string of successes. Additionally, the team executed the orbit-insertion operation precisely and perfectly. According to Dante, entering into the orbit of Bennu is an incredible achievement that their team has been planning from years.
OSIRIS-Rex officially arrived at Bennu on 3rd December. After that, the ground staff quickly started plotting and estimating the small celestial body. They aimed to gather the information which could assist them to enter its orbit. But it seemed difficult because the asteroid has a minimal gravity pull. The team successfully entered into the orbit of Bennu and started revolving around it at 2:43 PM ET on 31st December. Their success has set a new record for orbiting around the smallest celestial body. Before this, Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe was the record setter. The spacecraft orbited asteroid Ryugu with a radius of 400m.
Additionally, OSIRIS-Rex now holds the record for the closest orbit. Currently, the probe is flying above the asteroid at around a mile from its surface. The spacecraft has discovered water locked inside the asteroid. Thus, researchers may get a sample from Bennu’s surface. The team will look for the samples while revolving around the asteroid. Whereas, the data received from the spectrometers of the spacecraft indicate the presence of molecules containing hydroxyls. It is a combination of oxygen and hydrogen atoms. According to estimations of NASA, the probe will take samples from Bennu’s surface and come back on Earth by 2023. NASA says it made a correct decision to select the object. The space agency hopes that the samples can assist scientists to study more about the development of the solar system and Earth.
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