NASA recently announced the return of the Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft to Earth after being in space for nearly five years. The mission aimed at collecting an abundance of rocks and dust samples from the 4.5 billion years old asteroid, Bennu. Now, the US agency has revealed the real image of the ancient cosmic body on social media. Posting the rare image on Instagram, NASA updated that OSIRIS-Rex is way back to our home planet with a sample of rocks and dust from the ancient near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft is set to arrive in the year 2023. Furthermore, the agency shared that as soon as the sample will reach Earth, they will be transported to NASA Johnson Space Centre. From there, it will be distributed to laboratories across the world enabling scientists to study the formation of our solar system and how Earth became a habitable planet.
In addition to the above information, the agency revealed that they will only use 25 per cent of the samples collected by the spacecraft. Moreover, they will preserve the rest 75 per cent for future generations to study with the technologies not invented yet.
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On Monday, May 10, at 4.23 pm, OSIRIS-Rex fired its main engines full throttle for seven minutes to thrust away from Bennu at 600 miles per hour. After releasing the sample capsule, the spacecraft will journey back to the planet Earth undertaking a total of 1.4 billion miles trip and a time period of around two-and-a-half years.
OSIRIS-REx will orbit the sun twice before it is expected to reach Earth in September 2023. When it is within about 6,000 miles, the capsule containing the asteroid samples will separate from the rest of the spacecraft and enter Earth’s atmosphere.
It is NASA’s first-ever asteroid sample return mission. As expected, the capsule will land at the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah’s West Desert. As per the agency, if the spacecraft fails to release the capsule, the scientists will divert it from Earth and will try again in 2025.