Daring maneuver brings NASA's orbiter closer to an asteroid than ever before




 

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been orbiting the space rock known as Bennu since the start of the year. It caught up with the asteroid in late December of 2018 and successfully inserted itself into orbit around the object around New Year's day. There have been several "firsts" along the way, but its latest maneuver is the most daring yet, and it allowed the spacecraft to break yet another record.

A recent tweak to its orbit has brought the probe to an orbit of just 680 meters, or around 2,230 feet from the asteroid's surface. This is now the closest that any manmade spacecraft has orbited any planetary body.

NASA is going to fire an atomic clock into space so astronauts know where they're going
NASA's Mars 2020 rover finally has its head
NASA reminds everyone it still needs another $30 billion for Trump's Moon mission

It's a stellar achievement for NASA, but it's worth noting that the previous record was actually already held by the OSIRIS-REx probe. What NASA did was break its own record and set itself even farther ahead from any competition to come in the future.

This new orbit, which the research team calls the Orbital B phase, will give scientists a better understanding of the asteroid's surface and hopefully allow NASA to choose a suitable location where the probe can briefly snag a sample of its material.

Actually pulling off such a daring maneuver will be incredibly risky, and nobody is quite sure if the spacecraft can make it happen. This is due in large part to the incredibly messy surface of Bennu, which surprised scientists when they got their first close look. The asteroid's surface is littered with debris ranging from tiny pebbles to massive boulders, and the spacecraft's handlers now have to find the safest place on the rock from which to gather a sample.

Assuming it pulls off the sample grab, the probe will then leave Bennu and return to Earth with the sample material stowed safely for scientists on Earth to examine.

BGR Top Deals:

COMMENTS

More Related News

Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad where first humans lifted off for the moon
Apollo 11 astronaut returns to launch pad where first humans lifted off for the moon

Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins returned to the launch pad Tuesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida where he flew to the moon 50 years ago along with the late Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin."Wonderful feeling to be back at launch pad 39A," Collins, the command module pilot for Apollo 11, said in an interview on the pad with Kennedy Space Centre Director Bob Cabana, himself a veteran of four space shuttle launches and a former shuttle commander.In the iconic 1969 moon mission, Collins, 88, stayed in lunar orbit while his crew mates Armstrong and Aldrin stepped foot on the lunar surface, an event that enraptured Americans and marked a preeminent chapter in human spaceflight....

A NASA official says the explosion of SpaceX
A NASA official says the explosion of SpaceX's ship during a test 'was a huge gift' for making the vehicle safe to fly

A lead SpaceX engineer said an anomaly that destroyed its Crew Dragon capsule, which is designed to fly NASA astronauts, was caused by a small valve.

SpaceX found the problem that blew up its Crew Dragon spacecraft
SpaceX found the problem that blew up its Crew Dragon spacecraft

The investigation shows a fixable problem, but don't count out on SpaceX flying astronauts in 2019.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.