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 NASA’s first asteroid sample landing infographic
Graphic shows the asteroid sample-return's approach, landing and sample processing.
GN44853EN

SPACE

NASA set for historic asteroid sample delivery

By Jordi Bou

September 24, 2023 - NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to drop off a capsule containing the first asteroid sample returned by a U.S. mission, with the hope it will land intact in the Utah desert.

The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft launched on Sep 8, 2016, and arrived at asteroid Bennu on Dec 3, 2018. In a dramatic, yet brief, touchdown on Oct 20, 2020, the spacecraft pick up a sample from the surface of Bennu before beginning the long journey home on May 10, 2021.

On Sep 24, after traveling billions of kilometres through our solar system, the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft will release a mini-fridge size capsule containing the sample.

The capsule will sizzle as it races through the sky protected by a heat shield. It will be tracked with thermal imaging equipment, and recovery teams will be deployed by helicopter to snatch it as quick as possible to avoid possible contamination from Earth's environment.

It will then be transported to Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will undergo preliminary analysis and be unveiled on Oct 11 in a livestreamed news conference.

It is hoped the sample will provide scientists with a window into the birth of the solar system, including the sun and planets, some 4.5 billion years ago.

Sources
PUBLISHED: 20/09/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona, Earth 3D
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