OSIRIS-REx space probe returns to Earth with asteroid dust

Osiris-Rex space probe returns to Earth
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OSIRIS-REx carries more than 60 grams of dust and fragments from the asteroid, the largest sample collected by NASA from the lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo missions.

The US space probe Osiris-Rex left the orbit of the asteroid Bennu, where it collected dust samples last year, to begin its long journey back to Earth, scheduled for arrival in September 2023, NASA reported.

OSIRIS-REx “is now moving more than 600 miles (almost 1,000 km) per hour from Bennu, on the way home,” mission chief Dante Lauretta said in a NASA video feed, the agency reported. news AFP.

Its thrusters fired without incident for seven minutes to put the probe on the correct trajectory of a 1.4 billion mile (2.3 billion kilometer) journey and land in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023.

OSIRIS-REx carries more than 60 grams of dust and fragments from the asteroid, the largest sample collected by NASA from the lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo missions.

To achieve this goal, NASA launched a high-risk operation in October 2020: the probe made contact with the asteroid for a few seconds and a blast of compressed nitrogen was emitted to lift the dust sample.

The surprise was that the probe’s arm sank several centimeters into the asteroid’s surface, showing scientists that the “surfaces of debris asteroids are very poorly consolidated,” Lauretta said, always according to AFP.

The entire mission almost failed when NASA realized a few days later that the valve in the collection compartment did not close, allowing the fragments to escape into space.

But the precious cargo – whose analysis will help to better understand the formation of the solar system and the development of the Earth as a habitable planet – was finally secured after being transferred to a capsule attached to the center of the spacecraft.

In two and a half years, that capsule will be launched a few hours before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and will use a parachute system to slow its entry.