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The first images of the return of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which will bring samples from an asteroid to Earth, are now ready

The first images of the return of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which will bring samples from an asteroid to Earth, are now ready

During the OSIRIS-REx mission, NASA’s spacecraft transports samples taken from the asteroid Bennu to Earth and, twenty minutes after releasing the cargo, continues its next mission to Apophis.

NASA Osiris Rex Its mission is nearing its end. On September 24, the spacecraft visiting the asteroid Bennu will approach Earth and release its payload, a container containing samples from the asteroid.

The mission was launched in September 2016, and the probe traveled for more than two years after its launch before reaching the asteroid, which it entered its orbit around at the end of December 2018. The landing took place much later, in October 2020, and the spacecraft then obtained the required amount of samples from the planet’s material. Small, then set off for home in May 2021. The probe did not actually land on the surface, but descended very close to it, then picked up some of the exploded debris from the ground with the help of a robotic arm. The assembly process took only 16 seconds. The rocks are an extremely valuable cargo: they give scientists a better idea of ​​the asteroid’s structure and can also obtain new information about the formation of the solar system.

The return of OSIRIS-REx is therefore highly anticipated, but there is only a little more than a day left until its arrival: the probe is approaching Earth, as images from the European Space Agency’s Optical Ground Station (OGS) telescope clearly show. . Using the 90 images taken by OGS on September 16, the image was compiled. The spacecraft, located 4.66 million kilometers from Earth, looks like a small dot, but according to the data, it represents OSIRIS-REx. The telescope is often used to observe near-Earth asteroids, so detection by the probe was also carried out by staff of the Near-Earth Object Coordination Center.

The first images of the return of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which will bring samples from an asteroid to Earth, are now ready
Montage of OGS images, with OSIRIS-REx in the middle (Image: ESA)

OSIRIS-REx is expected to finish its current mission on Sunday, but it will not stop to rest: just minutes after delivering the Bennu pieces to Earth, the first stage of its next mission, the journey to the asteroid, has already begun. Apophis. When the 340-meter-diameter asteroid was discovered in 2004, astronomers thought it was a potentially very dangerous object on Earth, but since then, based on measurements, it has become clear that there is no chance of it colliding with Earth. Earth at the present time (at least for a century). The OSIRIS-REx probe, which will be called OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-APophis EXplorer) after September 24, will encounter the asteroid in 2029, where it will pass very close, less than 32 thousand kilometers from the Earth’s surface.

(Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, European Space Agency)

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