The first mission of NASA designed for Visit the asteroid and enter a sample of your dust The country reached its destination on Monday, Bennu, two years after the launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission of 800 million dollars, known as OSIRIS-REx, made contact with the asteroid around 12 am after 10 am (17h10 GMT), for the last time ignited engines.
"We arrived", said Javier Cherna, engineer at Lockheed Martin, while his mission control team in Littleton, Colorado, cheered and shook hands as seen on NASA's television broadcast.
500 meters in diameter, Bennu is the size of a small mountain and it is the smallest object that has been orbited by man's space ship.
Bennu, a fragment of the initial solar system, is also considered potentially dangerous. It is a small risk, with the possibility of 2,700 clashes with the Earth in 2135.
Rich in carbon, it was selected from about 500,000 asteroids in the Solar System because orbit near a circle of Earth around the Sun.because it is the right size for scientific studies and It is one of the oldest asteroids known to NASA.
Scientists hope to find out more information about the early formation of the solar system and how to find precious resources such as metals and water in asteroids.
"With the asteroids, you have a time capsule, you have a flawless copy of what the solar system was like a million years ago," said Michelle Thaler, a spokeswoman for the NASA Space Flight Center in Goddard.
"Therefore, for scientists this sample will be much more expensive than gold," he said.
Soft shock of five
The mission was launched in September 2016. After a few months OSIRIS Rex approached Bennu and finally reached the universe when it was nearly 129 million kilometers from Earth.
"During the last months, Bennu was put in focus as I approached", said the OSIRIS-REx profile of the Twitter network.
"Now that I'm here, I'm going to fly around the asteroid and I will study it in detail," he said.
The spacecraft is equipped with a set of five scientific instruments for studying the asteroid over the next year and a half, high resolution mapping to help scientists decide exactly where to sample.
In 2020, the investigation will expand its robotic arm and touch the asteroid with a maneuver described as "gentle clash of hands" by Rich Koons, director of the OSIRIS-REx program at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.
Using a circular device similar to the automotive filter and a reverse dust collecting vacuum, it aims to collect about 60 grams of material from the surface of the asteroid and return it to Earth for further study.
NASA said it could get a lot more material from the asteroid, perhaps more than two kilograms.
The heads of the US space agency hope to use OSIRIS-REx to introduce as much of a burden as possible from the Apollo era, which were active in the 1960s and 1970s, when US researchers gathered and brought 382 kilograms of Earth. on the lunar rocks.
The Japanese space agency JAXA was the one that for the first time proved possible collection of asteroid samples.
In 2010, the Hayabusa spacecraft crashed into the surface of its target asteroid and managed to take several milligrams of material in 2010.
Once NASA's successful NASA mission collects Benne's space dust, the sample will be busy and will return to Earth in 2023 when it landed in the Utah Desert by the end of September, NASA said.
OSIRIS-REx is an acronym of origin, spectral interpretation, resource identification, Security-Awesome Explorer.