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The capsule containing asteroid Bennu dust landed directly – Space & Astronomy

The capsule containing asteroid Bennu dust landed directly – Space & Astronomy

The capsule launched by NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe has arrived at Earth, with its precious payload of 250 grams of samples taken from the soil of asteroid Bennu. “It is a time capsule,” NASA experts said, referring to the fact that the samples can tell us a lot about the origins of the solar system and the elements needed to assemble the molecules that form the basis of life. The probe landed in the Utah desert, in the Otter Base area (Testing and Training Field in Utah) of the US Department of Defense.

The capsule launched by the Osiris-Rex probe and landing with its precious payload of samples from the asteroid Bennu appears intact. This is evidenced by the first pictures published by the helicopters that arrived at the landing site to conduct recovery operations. The final operation has just begun and technicians are approaching the capsule. For safety, their hands are protected with gloves and their faces with a mask to protect themselves from the possible release of harmful substances.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe launched the capsule about three hours ago, thus completing its mission, but it is already ready to depart toward its new target: the asteroid Apophis. The dust taken from the asteroid Bennu is a valuable cargo because it is rich in the elements necessary to build the building blocks of life, as indicated by 7 research published in March 2023 in the journal Nature.

The “launch” for the exercise, NASA said on its website, came from technicians and military personnel at the US Department of Defense’s Otter (Testing and Training Range) base in Utah, in the area of ​​which the exercise was carried out. The capsule is scheduled to arrive at 4.55pm Italian time. The signal to launch the probe’s landing capsule was given by engineers of the capsule manufacturer Lockheed Martin, when Osiris-Rex was about 101,000 kilometers from Earth, or about a third of the distance that separates our planet from Earth. moon.

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The Osiris-Rex probe (whose name is an abbreviation of Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer) is guided by a special Italian “compass”: a stellar position sensor created by Leonardo at the Campi Bisenzio (Fi) plant. Minerals in the soil of asteroid Bennu were also analyzed thanks to an infrared sensor created by the same Italian company in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, Scientific Director of the Virtual Telescope, has photographed the Osiris-Rex probe: the image was acquired during the night between 23 and 24 September using instruments installed in Manciano (Grosseto).

The Osiris_Rex probe is approaching Earth (Source: Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project)

The Osiris-Rex probe was launched in 2016, collected soil samples from asteroid Bennu in October 2020, and shortly after launching the capsule, is preparing for another long journey. Its target this time is the asteroid Apophis, which it is supposed to reach in April 2029. In the new mission, called Osiris-Apex, the probe will have to reach the asteroid at a distance of about 32 thousand kilometers. It is expected to arrive in 2029, when it will enter orbit around this new fossil in the solar system that is about 300 kilometers across, just after the asteroid passes near Earth.

Reproduction © Copyright ANSA