On Monday, OSIRIS-Rex, a deep-space probe of NASA flew around 12 miles away from its mission, a large-sized rocky asteroid that has the potential to slam into Earth and kill us in around 150 years. The explorer has reached the asteroid which is also believed to contain organic compounds important to life as well as water.
OSIRIS-Rex was launched in September 2016 and began its seven-year journey to carry out a close survey on the asteroid named Bennu to gather a sample from its rocky surface and make a journey back to Earth with the material. Bennu is a sky-scraper sized rocky mass that is rough of the shape of a big acorn and nearly 1,600 foot wide.
It is orbiting the Sun at nearly the same distance as planet Earth and is believed to contain carbon-based organic compounds which are as old as the earliest solar system days. It is also believed that water might also be present in the minerals present on the asteroid. The researchers believe that the comets and asteroids which collide into our planet a long time ago left organic molecules as well as water which seeded and bought life on Earth.
This is why the researchers hope to evaluate the samples from Bennu on an atomic level to determine and prove this theory. Besides this, the researchers also want to study Bennu to learn more about the probability of the asteroid colliding into Earth in around 166 years. They believe that Bennu may pass much closer from our planet than the moon and may likely come closer later still between the years 2175-95.
The explorer will pass nearly 1.2 miles away from Bennu in the latter half of December and enter its gravitational pull. From then on, OSIRIS-Rex will start orbiting around the asteroid within only 6 feet from the object’s surface. It will lay its robot arm atop the asteroid to collect a sample of its surface which in its final year of the mission, 2023. The spacecraft will later fly and return to the planet.