NASA spacecraft set for Bennu asteroid exploration that might hit Earth

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is ready to send a spacecraft to an asteroid that is a potential danger to our planet. The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is the name of the upcoming mission. The mission is targeted to Bennu, a C-Type asteroid (carbonaceous asteroids).

With the OSIRIS-Rex, NASA plans to learn more about Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx will collect samples of material from the surface of the asteroid and bring them back to Earth for analysis. NASA will spend about 1 billion USD for the whole mission. The OSIRIS-Rex will launch on September 8, 2016.

Bennu was discovered in 1999. Like every other asteroid, Bennu also has a lot in store about the information regarding the history of our Solar System. But the speciality of Bennu is that it is one of the darkest satellites in our system and thus has a perfect depository of carbonaceous compounds. This means that it has a lot of information about organic materials. It may provide useful information about the origin of living beings in the solar system.

The asteroid takes about 436 days or 1.2 years to orbit around the Sun. Bennu measures around 480 meters to 511 meters in diameter. The orbit has a pattern which brings the asteroid very close to the earth after every six years.

Observations by telescopes indicate that the asteroid has a moderately high chance of hitting the Earth in the distant future. Modern calculations predict that there is about 1 in 1400 chance of Bennu impacting our planet. The impact has the highest chance of occurring between 2169 to 2199.

The OSIRIS-REx will help NASA get to know more details about the non-gravitational effects like Yarkovsky effect. Then, more accurate calculations can be done and precisely predict collision of Bennu with the Earth.

By studying the physical and chemical properties of Bennu, NASA wants to make preparations if any calamity is predicted. The samples collected from the surface of the asteroid will provide detailed information for developing advanced technique for dealing with any upcoming impact.

The ORISIS-REx spacecraft has a dimension of 3 meters cube. The solar panels of the spacecraft measure 8.5 square meters. Solar panels and Lithium-ion batteries supply power to the vehicle. A monopropellant, Hydrazine will handle the propulsion of the spacecraft. The ORISIS-REx shall come back to Earth with collected samples in 2023.

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