NASA deep space probe reaches asteroid deemed potential Earth threat

Watch NASA live stream the arrival of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe

Watch NASA live stream the arrival of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe

NASA's first-ever mission created to visit an asteroid and return a sample of its dust back to Earth arrived Monday at its destination, Bennu, two years after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft has been traveling through the solar system en route to its target Bennu for almost 27 months now and will stay about 12 miles away from the asteroid.

This series of images taken by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows Bennu in one full rotation from a distance of around 50 miles (80 km). So, there are scientists who have more existential reason to study Bennu.

Also in 2019, the team will begin selecting boulder-free candidate sites from which to collect a sample for return to Earth.

Nasa's deep space explorer Osiris-Rex flew on Monday to within a dozen miles of its destination, a skyscraper-sized asteroid believed to hold organic compounds fundamental to life as well as the potential to collide with Earth in about 150 years. Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life.

"Now we're at it again, working with our partners in the United States and Canada to accomplish the Herculean task of bringing back to Earth a piece of the early solar system", Glaze said. First images of the asteroid from the spacecraft's perspective have appeared as it got closer and closer.

OSIRIS-REx will now make five close-range mapping runs before slipping into orbit around the asteroid at the end of the year. These maneuvers also targeted a trajectory to set up Monday's maneuver, which initiates the first north pole flyover and marks the spacecraft's arrival at Bennu.

OSIRIS-REx is in no hurry. This will be extremely hard and we will have to wait a year to see if the new method is successful. "We have arrived!" he called out moments later. It's up to her to chart the location of any rock that could damage the probe when it eases in to grab the sample at the heart of its mission.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return the sample to Earth in September 2023. And Bennu's orbit makes it a "potentially hazardous" asteroid, meaning it's big and could possibly threaten the Earth in the distant future, so scientists hope to further characterize it.

Stowing the sample
Stowing the sample

Scientists estimate there is a one-in-2,700 chance of the asteroid crashing into Earth 166 years from now.

It took a little over two years and more than two billion kilometers of cruising, but NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made it.

"OSIRIS-REx is a mission to figure out where we came from, as asteroids are remnants from the formation of our solar system".

Bennu is about 1,600 feet (500 meters) in diameter, about the size of a small mountain. In February 2019, the spacecraft begins efforts to globally map Bennu to determine the best site for sample collection.

The sampler head is stored in the Sample-Return Capsule (SRC) and OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth.

"Osiris-Rex" ultimate goal is to bring back a regolith sample of at least 2.1 ounces.

"Professor Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona said that an impact with Bennu would release, 'three times more energy than all nuclear weapons detonated throughout history". Space Navigation and Flight Dynamics, Simi Valley, Calif.

And the Osiris Rex project works to bring more students into science careers.