The vast universe contains all human fantasies about the unknown. People with a strong thirst for knowledge will follow that curiosity and move towards the endless night, hoping to get closer to the truth about the origin of the universe in the unknown.
On September 25, NASA completed the first-ever asteroid collection mission in the United States. The space capsule containing hundreds of grams of Bennu asteroid material samples traveled 1.9 billion kilometers in the universe and finally "came home" at 10:00 on September 25, U.S. time. It was dropped by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the U.S. Department of Defense in Utah. State Training Range, the largest restricted airspace in the United States.
After the researchers successfully recover it, the aviation capsule will be taken by helicopter to a temporary laboratory for disassembly of major components. After disassembly, the asteroid material samples will undergo a process called "Nitrogen Purge" (nitrogen purge). Nitrogen can effectively protect the samples from earth material contamination.
Finally, the samples will be sent to the Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they will be formally analyzed by researchers.
The Bennu asteroid material sample recovery mission began 7 years ago.
In 2016, the OSIRIS-REx mission was launched. The Atlas V rocket successfully launched the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft into space, officially starting OSIRIS-REx's seven-year space adventure. After entering space, OSIRIS-REx will fly around the sun in one year.
In the next year of 2017, OSIRIS-REx approached the Earth again. Its purpose was not to go home. After all, OSIRIS-REx still had six years to complete its journey. The purpose of its approach to the earth is to use the earth's gravity to change its trajectory in space and accelerate it. Remember the plot of the earth using Jupiter to accelerate in "The Wandering Earth"? The two are the same.
In 2018, with the cheers of the OSIRIS-REx team, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft finally successfully approached its "dream lover". At this time, the distance between OSIRIS-REx and the Bennu asteroid was only 20 kilometers, which is a small distance on Earth. It's not a small distance, but in the universe, this distance means that OSIRIS-REx has successfully "held hands" with Bennu.
At this point, the OSIRIS-REx mission can finally enter the next stage. In this stage, OSIRIS-REx will coexist with the Bennu asteroid for two years. Researchers used this time to map the surface of the Bennu asteroid from the images sent back by OSIRIS-REx to analyze the best location to obtain samples. At the same time, researchers can also conduct preliminary studies on Bennu and learn as much as possible about this asteroid.
Finally in 2020, the relationship between the two parties took a step closer. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft landed on the Bennu asteroid and successfully obtained hundreds of grams of material samples from it. The sampling process was even a bit too successful. At that time, OSIRIS-REx obtained too many samples. So that successful sealing cannot be achieved.
Judging from the results, the sampling mission was successful. OSIRIS-REx officially embarked on its return journey in 2021 and successfully "sent home" the samples on September 25.
What is the reason why NASA spent so much time studying the Bennu asteroid and spent 7 years just searching for "stones" from it?
The asteroid Bennu was discovered by the Lincoln Institute of Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) on September 11, 1999. What is unique about it is not that it approaches the Earth every six years, nor that it may hit the Earth in 2182. What is truly unique about it is that it The difference is its "age".
Scientists are currently deducing the age of the solar system by dating meteorites that have crashed into the Earth. However, due to factors such as erosion of earth materials, the information existing on meteorites will be damaged to varying degrees. The oldest rocks found on the earth are about 4 billion years old. And Bennu is 4.5 billion years old, which is 500 million years older than the oldest rock on Earth.
Since Bennu has been traveling through the universe, it is not contaminated by any impurities. To put it bluntly, Bennu is a well-preserved "time capsule" belonging to the early solar system. Scientists hope to explore the origin of life, the origin of the earth, and even the origin of the solar system through the study of the Bennu asteroid.
The journey of our protagonist OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues. OSIRIS-REx was officially renamed OSIRIS-APEX and continues to study the new target-the asteroid Apophis, which is one of the most famous asteroids in the solar system. OSIRIS-APEX will rendezvous with it in a few years and conduct more scientific observations.
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