NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is gearing up for its highly anticipated return to Earth on September 24th, marking the end of its extraordinary 7-year mission. Packed with pieces of the asteroid Bennu, which were collected in October 2020, the mission has captured the imagination of scientists and space enthusiasts alike.
The landing of the asteroid sample-return capsule is being eagerly awaited, with a mix of excitement and nerves among the scientific community. The stakes are high as scientists hope the samples will unlock the mysteries of our solar system and provide valuable insights into the origins of life on Earth.
As the spacecraft hurtles towards our planet, it will enter Earth’s atmosphere protected by a state-of-the-art heat shield. Reaching speeds of up to 27,000 mph, the capsule will undergo intense heat and pressure before gradually slowing down to a mere 10 mph with the help of parachutes. This delicate maneuver is crucial to ensure the safe delivery of the precious samples.
One somewhat unexpected figure who played a part in the mission’s success is none other than Queen guitarist Brian May. Utilizing his expertise in astrophysics, May created three-dimensional images of the asteroid’s rubble pile, helping scientists identify safe landing spots for the spacecraft. His contribution highlights the role that individuals from various fields can play in advancing scientific endeavors.
To ensure a seamless landing, NASA conducted a crucial drop test on August 30th, simulating the procedures for the capsule’s arrival. This test run allowed engineers to fine-tune their approach and address any potential challenges that may arise during the actual landing.
In an exclusive interview, Dante Lauretta, the chief scientist of the OSIRIS-REx mission, shed light on the difficulties faced during NASA’s first-ever asteroid sampling attempt. Lauretta discussed the complexities of navigating and collecting samples from a distant asteroid, underscoring the pioneering nature of this mission.
As the countdown to the landing day continues, scientists and space enthusiasts alike are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the OSIRIS-REx capsule. The successful completion of this remarkable mission will not only be a testament to NASA’s technological prowess but also provide invaluable insights into the origins of our solar system.