The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a US space agency has launched OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid 101955 Bennu and return to Earth.
The spacecraft was launched onboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
- OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
- It is an unmanned spacecraft and NASA’s first mission to collect samples from an asteroid and return to Earth.
- OSIRIS-Rex will travel for two years on a journey to Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid about the size of a small mountain.
- Primary aim of the mission: To study asteroid 101955 Bennu , a carbonaceous asteroid.
- Also to return a sample at least 60 grams dirt and debris from its surface and return to Earth in 2023 for detailed analysis.
- NASA scientists feel that the Bennu asteroid hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth.
- Significance: Material returned from asteroid 101955 Bennu is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System.
- Besides it will give insights of initial stages of planet formation and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life on Earth.
Note: OSIRIS-Rex is NASA’s third planetary science mission selected in the New Frontiers Program, after Juno and New Horizons. 101955 Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid in the Apollo group. It was discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project.