OSIRIS-REx finds evidence of existence of water on asteroid
Recent data retrieved from Nasa's OSIRIS-REx space probe shows water is locked inside the asteroid Bennu.
SPACE — Recent data retrieved from NASA's OSIRIS-REx space probe shows water is locked inside the asteroid Bennu.
OSIRIS-REx began approaching the asteroid between mid-August and early December. It traveled about 2.2 million kilometers from Earth until it reached a location 19 kilometers from Bennu.
Once positioned, OSIRIS-REx proceeded to collect data from the asteroid using the Osiris Visible and Infrared Spectrometer and Osiris Thermal Emission Spectrometer.
The data revealed the presence of hydroxyl molecules, which are made up of oxygen and hydrogen atoms.
Hydroxyl molecules are found in water-bearing clay minerals. This finding suggests that Bennu has previously interacted with water.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to enter Bennu's orbit on Dec. 31 and will remain within its orbit until mid-February 2019.
The spacecraft will orbit the asteroid at a range of 1.4 kilometers to 2 kilometers, making Bennu the smallest planetary body ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to collect samples from Bennu's surface in mid-2020. After mapping and selecting a site to collect samples of the asteroid, the spacecraft will use its Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism to extract rocks and dirt from the asteroid's surface.
The Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism is an 11-foot robotic arm that uses nitrogen to stir up loose dirt and rocks from the asteroid's surface.
The dirt particles are then collected and stored in a canister that is later placed inside a heatproof Sample Return Capsule.
The spacecraft is expected to travel back to Earth and drop off the capsule containing the samples in September 2023.
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