We just arrived at an asteroid: OSIRIS-REx has reached Bennu!

We just arrived at an asteroid: OSIRIS-REx has reached Bennu!

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx has spent the last 2 years traversing about 2 billion kilometers, to arrive today at the asteroid Bennu. I’ve been following the OSIRIS-REx mission since 2014, when I took advantage of an outreach program to send a message to space on the back of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft for GISHWHES. (See item 183.)

One full rotation of Bennu captured from a distance of around 50 miles (80 km). Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Today the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft transitioned from approaching Bennu to maneuvering around the asteroid. On December 31st, after completing an initial survey, it will enter into orbit around the asteroid, the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.

From the NASA announcement:

OSIRIS-REx mission marks many firsts in space exploration. It will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. It’s the first to study a primitive B-type asteroid, which is an asteroid that’s rich in carbon and organic molecules that make up life on Earth. It is also the first mission to study a potentially hazardous asteroid and try to determine the factors that alter their courses to bring them close to Earth.

Learn more about this real-life Armageddon adventure. And click here to find out how much you’d weigh on Bennu.

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