On Dec. 31, OSIRIS-REx will enter an orbit around the asteroid, making it the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. NASA scientists think the 484-meter-wide rock was once part of a much larger asteroid, which Space.com suggests was as large as the U.S. state of CT (which is 110 miles wide and 70 miles long), that was blown apart by some colossal collision a billion years ago.
Today, scientists burned the engines to place OSIRIS-REx safely in its orbit around Bennu, 7 kilometres from the asteroid at closest approach.
Nasa's deep space explorer called Osiris-Rex, short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, flew On Monday (December 3) to a skyscraper-sized asteroid believed to hold organic compounds that are fundamental to life.
A live NASA broadcast of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's formal arrival begins at 11:45 am (1645 GMT). It poses a slight risk - a one in 2,700 chance - of colliding with Earth in 2135.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft arrived Monday at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years. The spacecraft will collect samples from the space rock which could pave the way for an asteroid mining industry, with some of them worth trillions of dollars due to their minerals which are scarce on Earth such as platinum.
After that, the spacecraft will move in close, extend its sampling arm, and touch the asteroid's surface for just five seconds, using nitrogen gas to stir up and collect at least 60 grams of loose material.
"Our CSIRO team in Canberra and our two sister Deep Space Network stations around the world in Spain and the United States will be with the mission every step of the way".
Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023.
Bennu is a carbonaceous primitive B-type asteroid with a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between the years 2175 and 2199, according to NASA's 2016 Earth Impact Risk Summary.
"The TAGSAM exercise is an important milestone, as the prime objective of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to return a sample of Bennu to Earth", said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
"But while the spacecraft might tell us some things about where we have been and where we are headed, it also can remind us of where we are right now", NASA officials said in a statement. It is theorized from the study of the orbit of Bennu that the gravity interaction between the two bodies during a close approach to Earth in 2060 (466,000 miles) will slightly alter its course. The seven-year mission involved a close-up survey of the asteroid Bennu and collection of sample from Bennu's surface and return to Earth for study. For example, the probe's measurements, and those of researchers studying the returned sample, should reveal a great deal about the resource potential of Bennu-like asteroids. "We work together to understand the history of the solar system".
The machine is also equipped with laser altimeter OLA for three-dimensional maps of topography, OTES infrared spectrometer to determine the chemical and mineral composition of the surface of Bennu and the OVIRS spectrometer, which will search for water and organic substances.