Nasa to collect samples of rock from asteroid the size of Empire State building
OSIRIS-REx will not land on the surface of Bennu but use its robotic arm called a Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) instrument.Updated: Oct 17, 2020, 14:57 IST
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (Nasa) OSIRIS-REx will collect a sample of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, which will make it the first interplanetary mission to do so, according to a press release by the American agency.
OSIRIS-REx or Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer is the third interplanetary missions launched by Nasa as a part of its New Frontiers Program. OSIRIS-REx will not land on the surface of Bennu but use its robotic arm called a Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) instrument. The TAGSAM instrument will pick up loose dust and rocks from the surface, also known as regolith particles, and then the sampler head at the end of the arm will collect the regolith.
Bennu is a near-earth asteroid that scientists believe may contain important information about life on earth. According to Nasa, Bennu is a primitive asteroid which had formed “in the first 10 million years of our solar system’s history — over 4.5 billion years ago.” Its birthplace is most likely in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars but as Bennu absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat, which is also known as Yarkovsky effect, it has come closer and now classified as a near-earth asteroid.
Bennu is as tall as the Empire State building but is 20-40% empty inside. The reason why Nasa thinks it is vital for understanding life on earth is because of Bennu’s age. According to Nasa, “Bennu is a primordial artefact preserved in the vacuum of space, orbiting among planets and moons and asteroids and comets. Because it is so old, Bennu could be made of a material containing molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth.”
Nasa also has pointed out that Bennu could be rich in resources like platinum and gold and the mission will allow scientists to study “whether asteroid mining during deep-space exploration and travel is feasible.”
Nasa will broadcast the sample collection event on Wednesday morning at 3:42am IST. The live coverage of the TAG mission will begin on the agency’s website starting 3:00am. The space agency has also encouraged enthusiasts to use the hashtag #ToBennuandBack to ask questions about the mission on the Twitter handle @OSIRISREx, which will also broadcast the mission.