From Bennu to Earth: OSIRIS-REx Completes Historic Asteroid Sample Mission
In a historic moment for NASA and space exploration enthusiasts worldwide, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully delivered a pristine sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu after seven years of space travel. This huge achievement marks NASA's first-ever return of an asteroid sample from the depths of space.
On a momentous day on September 24th, OSIRIS-REx approached Earth and released the sample capsule from a distance of 63,000 miles above our planet's surface.
Bennu Asteroid Sample: Graceful Touchdown
Parachutes deployed as the capsule descended, ensuring a gentle touchdown at a mere 11 miles per hour. The sample capsule found its final resting place within the Defense Department's Utah Test and Training Range, a testament to the precision of the mission. At 10:42 a.m. ET, the capsule entered Earth's atmosphere at an astonishing speed of approximately 27,650 miles per hour.
The Journey of OSIRIS-REx: From Launch to Sample Return
The OSIRIS-REx mission, an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, commenced its journey in 2016 when it lifted off from Earth. Two years later, in 2018, the spacecraft began its orbit around the enigmatic asteroid Bennu, initiating a meticulous mission of sample collection and planetary exploration.
In 2020, OSIRIS-REx fulfilled its primary mission by collecting a sample of Bennu's rocks and soil. This precious sample, weighing an estimated 8.8 ounces, was securely stored in a capsule onboard the spacecraft, setting the stage for its triumphant return to Earth.
Four helicopters were swiftly dispatched to transport recovery and research teams to the landing site. These teams embarked on aerial assessments to guarantee the capsule's integrity and safeguard against any damage.
The initial recovery team, equipped with protective gear, initiated a crucial phase. They ensured that the capsule had cooled sufficiently for safe handling after enduring temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit during re-entry. Additionally, they assessed the capsule's battery for potential ruptures and toxic leaks.