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[ad_1] SAN FRANCISCO — We now know the place NASA's first asteroid sample-return mission goals to snag its otherworldly stuff.The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will swoop down on a website referred to as Nightingale close to the north pole of the 1,650-foot-wide (500 meters) asteroid Bennu, which the probe has been orbiting since December 2018, mission group members introduced right here right this moment (Dec. 12) throughout a information convention on the annual fall assembly of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). "This is a day I've been dreaming of for over a decade," Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx's principal investigator and a planetary scientist on the College of Arizona, informed Area.com after the information convention. "And it's the culmination of the work of hundreds of people working thousands of hours, poring over the data that we've returned from the asteroid over the past year."Associated: OSIRIS-REx: NASA's Asteroid-Sampling Mission in PicturesThe $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission is investigating the photo voltaic system's early days and the function that carbon-rich asteroids comparable to Bennu could have performed in bringing life's constructing blocks to Earth. Nightingale provides the group the perfect probability to make vital progress on these fronts, Lauretta stated.For instance, the positioning has numerous fine-grained materials that may be readily sucked up by the spacecraft's sampling mechanism. Nightingale can also be near Bennu's north pole, the place temperatures have remained comparatively cool over the eons. So, the grime and rubble up there have skilled much less alteration than stuff close to the asteroid's equator, growing the chance that pristine organics and hydrated minerals are there to be collected.Certainly, Nightingale sports activities numerous darkish materials, which might be indicative of organics, Lauretta stated in the course of the information convention. And Nightingale itself is a small impression crater that seems to be younger — that means OSIRIS-REx ought to have the ability to choose up asteroid samples that have been lately unearthed (and due to this fact subjected to little area weathering).Nonetheless, Nightingale "does have some hazards associated with it," Lauretta stated in the course of the information convention.For instance, the crater is simply 65 ft (20 meters) or so extensive, making it a decent match for OSIRIS-REx, which spans about 20 ft (6 m), together with its photo voltaic panels. And the crater is ringed by some rugged rocks, together with one which Lauretta has dubbed "Mt. Doom," which rises about 33 ft (10 m) above the crater flooring.Nightingale is the northernmost website of the 4 candidate touchdown zones that NASA had chosen for its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.  (Picture credit score: NASA/College of Arizona)OSIRIS-REx will spend the following eight months doing reconnaissance work and working towards for the sampling maneuver. Then, on Aug. 25, the probe will make its transfer right down to Nightingale. OSIRIS-REx's brush will Bennu can be extra of a kiss than a touchdown. The probe will faucet the asteroid with its sampling head, which can blast the area rock with nitrogen fuel, stirring up numerous stuff that may get sucked up. (OSIRIS-REx can seize as much as 4.Four lbs., or 2 kilograms, of stuff, however the minimal for mission success is 2.1 ounces, or 60 grams.)These complicated strikes will all be carried out autonomously. Actual-time operation from mission management is out of the query, given Bennu's distance from Earth (and the various minutes it could take instructions to bridge that gulf.)However all isn't misplaced if Nightingale proves to be too powerful a nut for OSIRIS-REx to crack. The spacecraft can be assessing hazards all the way in which down, and, if it senses one thing going amiss, the probe can hit the brakes and head again to asteroid orbit, group members stated.Associated: How NASA's Asteroid Sample-Return Mission Works (Infographic)If the U-turn occurs near Bennu's floor, Nightingale may be rejected as a sampling website, contaminated because it might be by the probe's thrusters. The mission group would then regroup and begin planning for its designated secondary website — a spot dubbed Osprey. (Nightingale and Osprey have been two of the 4 sampling-site finalists the OSIRIS-REx group thought-about. The opposite two even have avian names — Sandpiper and Kingfisher.)And sampling itself is not essentially a one-off, make-or-break affair. OSIRIS-REx has three nitrogen bottles on board, that means it may well attempt thrice to get the requisite 60 grams of asteroid materials.When that pattern is safely onboard, the mission will transfer into a brand new section. If all goes in accordance with plan, OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in March 2021 to start the journey again to Earth. (This isn't a tough deadline, nevertheless; the window extends by means of that Could, Lauretta stated.)That journey will take about 2.5 years. Then, in September 2023, the probe will launch its particular sample-containing return capsule, which can land within the Utah desert. The Bennu materials will then be studied by groups of scientists in well-equipped labs across the globe for many years to return.OSIRIS-REx is not the one asteroid sample-return mission in operation now. Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft efficiently snagged bits of the asteroid Ryugu, that are scheduled to return right down to Earth in Australia in December 2020. The OSIRIS-REx group is enthusiastic about a lot of questions, as indicated by the mission's full title — "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer." For instance, the mission's knowledge might assist scientists assess the resource potential of Bennu-like asteroids, group members have stated. And analyses of Bennu's movement might assist researchers higher predict the trajectories of potentially dangerous asteroids — a class that features Bennu, by the way in which.Mike Wall's ebook concerning the seek for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Need more space? You can get 5 issues of our partner "All About Space" Magazine for $5 for the most recent wonderful information from the ultimate frontier! (Picture credit score: All About Area journal) [ad_2] Source link Mike Wall