After two years of chasing, NASA's space ship arrived Monday on the ancient asteroid Bennu, his first visitor for billions of years.
The robotic explorer Osiris-Rex, just to the mark, retreated within 19 kilometers of the diamond space rock. It will be closer in the coming days and actually went to orbit around Bennu on December 31st. No space spacecraft has ever orbited so little a cosmic body.
Flight controllers applauded and exchanged high birds after confirmation – just one week after NASA landed a Mars spacecraft.
"Relaxed, proud and impatient to start exploring!" Twitter scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona.
With Benno more than 130 million kilometers away, it takes seven minutes to get from the spacecraft to Lockheed Martin flight controllers at Littleton, CO. The company built a spacecraft there.
Bennu is estimated at just over 500 meters (1,600 feet). The researchers will provide a more precise description of the scientific meeting next Monday in Washington.
For the size of the SUV, the spacecraft will overshadow the asteroid for a year before using some gravel to return to Earth in 2023.
Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona pic.twitter.com/VyPG3gRRdw
Scientists are keen to study carbon-rich asteroid material like Dark Benois, which can contain evidence that dates back to the beginning of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago. As such, it is an astronomical time capsule.
A Japanese spacecraft, however, descends to another asteroid near the Earth in June, also for samples. It is the second asteroid mission of Japan. This last rock is called Rugu and is twice the size of Bennu.
Rugu's ryu should be here by December 2020, but will be far short of the promised Osiris-Rex film.
60 g of space gravel
Osiris-Rex aims to collect at least 60 grams, or 2 ounces, dust and gravel from Bennu. The spacecraft will not land, but use a mechanical hand of 3 meters (10 meters) in 2020 for instantaneous touching and vacuuming of particles. The sample container will break and go to Earth in 2021.
In the past few months, Bennu came to the fore as I approached. Now that I'm here, I'm going to fly around the asteroid and study it in detail. All the data I collect will help my team select a sample site in 2020. #WelcomeToBennu Details: https://t.co/9pYBuYxA8X pic.twitter.com/CnzVwwRz5n
The Parachuting to Utah collection will represent the largest cosmic destination of the Apollo astronauts who surrendered the moon on Earth in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
NASA has so far returned the comet of dust and solar particles from the wind, but never asteroid samples. Japan managed to return some small particles from its first asteroid mission.
Both Bennu and Ryugu are considered potentially dangerous asteroids. That means they could devastate the Earth from now. In the worst case, Bennu would have rented a crater during the scheduled closed call from 150 years from now.
Scientists say that the more they learn about asteroids, the better equipped Earth will go in a real catastrophic strike.
The Osiris-Rex $ 800 million mission began with the launch of 2016 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.