NASA will launch its asteroid sampling satellite on September 8th. The space agency’s satellite is called OSIRIS-Rex, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, and Regolith Explorer. The OSIRIS-Rex mission will cost NASA about eight hundred million dollars.
The REx is twenty feet long, eight feet wide and ten feet high. It is going to make contact with the Bennu asteroid. The meteor will be close to the Earth’s orbit soon. The satellite is going to create a detailed map of Bennu and it’s going to sample some of the soil, which is called regolith. In doing so it will employ a robotic arm and grabber that will pick up particles below 2 millimeters in size.
The soil will travel back to Earth in a sealed container, in 2023. Then scientists will look at it for signs of amino-acids, the basics of life. If such signs will be found, NASA will partially solve the mystery of how life began on Earth.
Experts are looking for soil samples that could be dated back to the very beginning of the solar system, said Dante Lauretta. Lauretta, professor of planet science and cosmochemistry is also the mission’s leading expert.
The idea behind the project is for OSIRIS-Rex to superficially collide with the satellite for a few seconds, to raise some asteroid dust that can be studied closely back on Earth.
However, this is hard to do in zero gravity.
A while back, an engineer from Lockheed Martin, Jim Harris, started to practice a reverse vacuum concept. The concept would use an air compressing device to blow out air through a cup’s base.
The dirt was collected in a special container.
The spacecraft will approach the asteroid Bennu, map it, orbit around it and it will take a sample off the asteroid for research. Three-quarters of the regolith will be kept for future research, as scientists today may not have the means to fully understand the findings.
NASA picked Bennu out of five hundred thousand possible candidates in our solar system. It was the ideal choice because it has a perfect size, it is easy to get to and it probably has carbon-rich dust, billions of years old.
Bennu was around when our solar system began to form. It could show signs of early life.
Image Source – Wikipedia