A spacecraft is about to return to Earth after taking samples from a billion-year-old asteroid.
The US space agency NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will land in the Utah desert with samples of the 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid Bennu.
This is the third time in history that a sample of a space rock from the Solar System has been obtained.
The sample retrieved from Bennu is the largest ever in terms of volume and will be studied by scientists from around the world once the mission successfully lands.
The mission was launched 7 years ago in 2016 and covered a total of 1.2 billion miles.
Bennu is an asteroid that is thought to be rich in carbon, and that’s why scientists are excited to examine it.
This spacecraft has no humans on board and is equipped with multiple cameras.
In addition, the spacecraft is equipped with materials that were necessary to create 3D maps of Bennu, to know the temperature and the presence of metals.
A robotic arm attached to the spacecraft collected rocks and debris from the asteroid and then sealed them inside the capsule.
The spacecraft landed on the asteroid in October 2020 and began its journey to Earth in May 2021.
On approach to Earth, the spacecraft will detach the sample capsule and insert it into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The capsule will land on the night of September 24 (Pakistani time) in the western desert of Utah, where scientists are waiting for it.
According to the scientists, there are no viruses or bacteria present in this sample and therefore there is no danger in testing them.
It should be noted that Bennu was discovered in 1999 and passes close to our Earth every 6 years.
Scientists believe that over time the asteroid will get closer to Earth and in September 2182 it may come close enough to hit Earth.
After a successful mission, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, named OSIRIS-APEX, will be sent to another asteroid, Apophis, which will approach Earth in 2029.