New Delhi: The US space agency NASA is getting ready to launch a spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid named 'Bennu' that scientists say could hit Earth late in the 22nd century.
As per NASA, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 8.
Here are some facts you need to know about the OSIRIS-REx mission:
- OSIRIS-REx, an unmanned spacecraft is going to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid that records the earliest history of our solar system.
- OSIRIS-REx will be the first-ever NASA mission to travel to an asteroid, retrieve a sample, and return the sample to Earth.
- The spacecraft will spend two years chasing Bennu down, finally making a rendezvous with the near-Earth asteroid in August 2018.
- After conducting a detailed survey of Bennu from orbit, OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to the surface and collect a sample of the asteroid for return to Earth in 2023.
- For two years after the sample return, the science team will catalogue the sample and conduct the analysis needed to meet the mission science goals.
- Scientists believe this 'pristine sample' will provide important clues to the origin of life on Earth and the likelihood that life may have originated elsewhere in our solar system.
- At least 75% of the sample will be preserved at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston for further research by scientists worldwide, including future generations of scientists.
- Although Bennu is officially classified as a potentially dangerous asteroid, NASA scientists calculated that it has a 0.037 percent (or 1-in-2,700) chance of striking the Earth when it passes between the moon and our planet in 2135.