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NASA launches OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from Bennu asteroid

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.

Key Facts

  • 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.

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