NASA's asteroid probe NASRIS-REX probe arrived in its target, a large space rock known as Bennu in early December. The mission of the spacecraft will take several years to complete, but it has reached a major milestone to close 2018 by entering into orbit around Bennu. It may not sound like much, but it's actually a great achievement for NASA, and it's set some new records in the process.
How AP reports, the successful maneuver of the probe to enter into orbit around Bennu, makes the first spacecraft that orbits a celestial object so small. Just about 1,600 feet in diameter, it is the smallest object ever successfully orbited, and the near orbital distance of OSIRIS-REX of just one mile is also a record.
The OSIRIS-REx mission was initially launched as early as the end of 2016. In a few years, an investigation was needed to achieve the asteroid's goal, but now that it's there, it can begin to study Bennu in much more detail than it was before as early as possible.
The first clear view of the rock's surface last month. The images from the investigation reveal an awkward collection of debris deployed across the asteroid exterior. Ultimately, the mission's biggest challenge will be to collect part of that material and then return to Earth, but the process of collecting a touch and touch will not begin until 2020.
Once the investigation takes out a rock out of Bennu, it will begin a long journey back to Earth, which will arrive somewhere in 2023, if it goes according to the plan.
Research into the asteroid in orbit and the possible delivery of asteroid material will help researchers understand what constitute some of the larger asteroids in our solar system. Determining how they form and other details of their origin can help astronomers tell a more detailed story about the origin of our system and the Earth itself, and maybe help us prepare and anticipate asteroid impacts in the future.