Title: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Probe Adjusts Trajectory for Safe Return of Asteroid Sample
Subtitle: $1 Billion Mission Nears Exciting Stage as Probe Sets Course for Delivering Bennu Material to Earth
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe is making its final preparations to bring home its precious bounty from the asteroid Bennu. On September 17, the spacecraft performed a skillful trajectory-correcting maneuver, ensuring a safe arrival of its asteroid sample to Earth on September 24.
Using its thrusters, the probe adjusted its velocity by 7 inches per minute, precisely shifting the landing location of the sample capsule. As a result, the predicted landing spot has been moved about 8 miles east to the center of its predetermined landing zone.
The recent engine burn was a critical tweak to a previous maneuver that took place on September 10. It shifted the probe onto the correct course for the release of the sample capsule, a pivotal stage of the $1 billion OSIRIS-REx mission, which was launched in September 2016 with Bennu as its primary objective.
Currently, the probe is racing towards Earth from a distance of approximately 1.8 million miles, hurtling at a staggering speed of around 14,000 mph. Its return is eagerly anticipated, as in October 2020, OSIRIS-REx successfully collected about 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of material from Bennu’s surface, cementing its place in space exploration history.
The highly anticipated touchdown of the return capsule is scheduled to occur in Utah on Sunday, September 24, before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). Upon touchdown, the sample will be swiftly transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will undergo careful curation and long-term storage.
Scientists worldwide are eagerly awaiting the arrival of this precious asteroid material. The samples hold immense potential for providing valuable insights into the early solar system and the role of carbon-rich asteroids in the emergence of life on Earth.
Despite the imminent completion of its primary mission, OSIRIS-REx will not retire just yet. The spacecraft is set to embark on an extended mission called OSIRIS-APEX, in which it will head towards the asteroid Apophis. The probe is expected to reach Apophis in 2029, continuing its exploration of these enigmatic space rocks.
As the countdown to the return of the asteroid sample continues, humanity waits with bated breath, ready to witness the scientific triumph and revelations that lay within the extraterrestrial treasure brought back by OSIRIS-REx.
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