Seven years later Departing for the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft returns with a celestial memento. On the morning of Sunday, September 24, because the probe passes by Earth, it should launch a canister containing about 9 ounces of area rocks. The container will descend by the ambiance, open its parachute, and land within the Utah desert at roughly 8:55 a.m. Mountain time.
Assuming its contents survive the journey unscathed, the return would symbolize a tantalizing step ahead for planetary science. Researchers have lengthy salivated over the prospect of inspecting unique asteroid fragments. Whereas meteorites — which are sometimes damaged items of asteroids — fall from the sky on a regular basis, they instantly contaminate the Earth they hit. This will probably be a uncommon take a look at an unstained rock from area, and can assist scientists perceive what materials Bennu is manufactured from and the place it got here from. If the mission is profitable, this would be the third asteroid pattern returned in historical past, following the JAXA missions to Ryugu and Itokawa.
For planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator, it is also “a bit bittersweet,” as a result of this system is now coming to an finish. Nevertheless, he says, “I am excited to get it into the lab, so we are able to do all this wonderful science.” His workforce from the College of Arizona will examine the composition of the mud and rock fragments within the container and hint any natural molecules they could include. Scientists may also have the ability to evaluate samples of Bennu and Ryugu.
However first, the capsule, which is round and concerning the measurement of an ice chest, should attain Earth safely. This implies deceleration from 28,000 mph to only 11. Lockheed Martin constructed the spacecraft for NASA and is answerable for recovering the capsule. “We have returned samples earlier than, so we’ve got that have,” says Sandra Freund, a techniques engineer at Lockheed and OSIRIS-REx program supervisor, referring to earlier NASA missions which have collected materials from a comet and the photo voltaic wind. “We all know we are able to do it, however there’s at all times a danger whenever you carry one thing again to Earth. You’ve got acquired an atmospheric reentry, which is a really fiery expertise. You’ve got parachutes that must deploy. So there are a selection of issues that need to go proper.” “
The capsule’s built-in warmth defend is designed to guard it from burning up at 5,000 levels Fahrenheit, like an unprotected meteorite or satellite tv for pc of that measurement hurtling by the ambiance. “Anytime you wish to transfer a payload by the ambiance, it’s essential defend it,” says Todd White, a scientist at NASA Ames Analysis Middle in Mountain View, California, who labored on the spacecraft’s thermal safety system. Extraordinarily.” The warmth defend is manufactured from light-weight, resin-filled shredded carbon fiber, and it is detachable, which means it burns slowly. “It seems to be good and brown on the again and white on the entrance, however when it lands it will look charred and crunchy,” White says.
First, the capsule will deploy a bit lubricant to maintain it secure. Seven minutes after touchdown, he’ll open his most important parachute and drift to Earth for an additional six minutes. Rescue helicopters will get the primary sighting of his fast touchdown. Comparatively delicate soil ought to cushion the impression when it lands inside Utah’s Division of Protection Distant Take a look at and Coaching Vary and Dugway Proving Grounds. Nevertheless, it’s an lively vary, so earlier than NASA personnel strategy to retrieve the container, a army consultant will verify the world to make sure there aren’t any unexploded ordnance.