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OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft To Land On Asteroid Bennu Tuesday Afternoon – CBS Denver

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LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4/AP) — The rocket scientists in Littleton are anxiously watching OSIRIS-REx — the space probe built by Lockheed Martin — as it prepares to land on an asteroid to scoop up dirt.

Our first asteroid sample return mission, @OSIRISREx, will make a bold attempt to “TAG” asteroid Bennu at a site no bigger than a few parking spaces & collect a sample.

👉 Go #ToBennuAndBack and experience what success would look like in 360 video: https://t.co/fSeAcTJ6Lu pic.twitter.com/7BiAMHu6Tr

— NASA (@NASA) October 20, 2020

The probe started chasing the asteroid named Bennu two years ago — and then had to spend a year find a spot to land.

We talked with NASA scientist Dr. Lucy Lim on CBSN Denver about the challenges of landing OSIRIS-REx — which is the size of a van.

“Our safe spot that we’re looking to touch the asteroid, you can do a handful of parking spaces. So you’re parking a van and a couple of parking spaces, you know, may be not super. When you’re in the van driving it, you know, (you’re) close up. We’re doing this from, you know, 100 million miles away,” said Dr. Lim. “And it’s in three dimensions and, yeah, there are boulders everywhere so that definitely makes it a much trickier problem.”

Nightingale is located near Bennu’s north pole, and the sampling area is about the size of 3 parking spaces. I’ve been practicing my aim because I’ll be targeting such a small spot today 🎯 pic.twitter.com/w4wEpYeBq7

— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 20, 2020

When NASA makes the collection attempt, OSIRIS-REx will break orbit and descend toward Bennu’s surface. The plan is for OSIRIS-REx to touch the Bennu for just 16 seconds, using nitrogen gas fired into the robotic collector to stir up and capture some of the asteroid’s surface materials.

Alrighty, my TAGSAM arm is fully extended and ready to reach for that sample 🤙#ToBennuAndBack pic.twitter.com/a1NeiaPjDu

— NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) October 20, 2020

Then the spacecraft will fire its thrusters again and back away from the asteroid.

CBS4 will be at Lockheed Martin for the landing — and you’ll be able to watch it live on CBSN Denver starting at 4 p.m. The touchdown is expected at about 4:08 p.m.

If the sample collection is successful, OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to depart the asteroid in March 2021 and return to earth in September of 2023. The return capsule containing the sample will separate from OSIRIS-REx and collected in Utah.

Scientists are eager to study material from a carbon-rich asteroid like dark Bennu, which is believed to be 4.5 billion years old. It could give scientists clues as to what the solar system was like as it was formed, what chemical building blocks jumpstarted life, how organic material gets transported within the solar system, and what Mars and Venus may have looked like in the past.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)  

 

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