Cheers to NASA: The “Osiris Rex” probe successfully approached the asteroid “Bennu” during a maneuver and took a sample. It is not yet clear whether this is sufficient for the scientists.

On a collision course with Earth: NASA is sampling asteroids

NASA wants to study the asteroid Bennu more closely – this is exactly why the “Osiris Rex” probe now has to take samples from Bennu. But how does the complicated maneuver actually work? (Source: ProSieben)

On a collision course with Earth: NASA is investigating a potentially dangerous asteroid (source: ProSieben)

Cheers and applause at the control center of the US space agency NASA: During a complex maneuver that lasted several hours, the “Osiris Rex” probe was the first US rocket to sample an asteroid on Wednesday evening. It should be returned to Earth in about three years. “The missile did everything it had to do,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s chief scientist. ‘I can’t believe we managed to do that. It’s historic, that’s beautiful. ‘

Whether the sample taken is usable and sufficient will not be known until the next few days after “Osiris Rex” sends further data to Earth, Lauretta said. NASA scientists are hoping for about 60 to 2,000 grams of dust, debris and rocks.

The probe had temporarily left its place in the orbit of the asteroid “Bennu” and was coming within a few meters of it. Using a type of robotic arm called the “Tagsam” (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism), she touched the surface of the asteroid for about five seconds, ejecting pressurized nitrogen to stir up sample material. After aspirating the sample, the probe moved away from “Bennu” and returned to orbit. NASA had previously successfully rehearsed the maneuver twice.

“The emotions are enormous”

When the successful completion of the maneuver was announced at the NASA control center in Maryland, USA, many of the scientists jumped – all in blue T-shirts and with protective masks – on, clapped and cheered. Some had tears in their eyes. “The emotions are enormous,” said lead scientist Lauretta. “Everyone is very proud.” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine also congratulated, “This wonderful premiere for NASA shows how an incredible team from around the country has come together and overcome unlikely hurdles to push the limits of our knowledge.”

“Osiris Rex” took off from Cape Canaveral spaceport in September 2016 and arrived in “Bennu” about two years later. Since then, the six-meter long, 2,100 kilogram probe (the abbreviation stands for: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) orbits the asteroid and examines it with its scientific instruments and cameras.

The deep black “Bennu”, named after an ancient Egyptian deity, has a diameter of about 550 meters and could get very close to Earth in over 150 years. Even though the risk of impact is very low, Nasa Bennu is one of the most dangerous asteroids currently known – and therefore wants to investigate it very carefully.

It is the second time that a soil sample has been taken

In addition, the scientists hope that the mission, which cost about a billion dollars, will provide information about the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago because asteroids are remnants of it.

In 2005, the Japanese space probe “Hayabusa” landed on an asteroid. In 2010, she brought the first soil samples ever collected from such a celestial body to Earth. There have been other flights to asteroids, but no other probe has yet returned material to Earth.

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