NASA deep space probe reaches asteroid deemed potential Earth threat

First Ever VIDEO Filmed From Asteroid Surface

Now OSIRIS-REx faces a whole new kind of challenge: exploring the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft.

AT 4am on Tuesday, Australia's deep-space* communication experts in Canberra will provide the final contact between NASA and its spacecraft OSIRIS-REx before it arrives at the asteroid* Bennu. I mentioned Bennu's orbit is Earth-like; in fact it gets close enough to Earth that's considered a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, capable of impacting Earth.

U.S. based space agency NASA's spacecraft OSIRIS-REx rendezvoused with its targeted asteroid Bennu on Monday after a two-year space travel.

Coverage of the event will be streamed live starting 11:45 a.m. ET. It is expected to return the sample to Earth in September 2023, according to NASA.

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The mission's navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid.

The information from this mission could also help if the asteroid Bennu is at risk of hitting Earth in the future. A rock which formed in the early solar system and has been preserved by the vacuum of space, Bennu has remained relatively unchanged since its creation.

This asteroid, named Bennu after a mythological Egyptian bird, by 9 year old student Michael Puzio in a contest by the Planetary Society, was selected from over 500,000 asteroids known in our Solar System as it was an Apollo-class near earth object (NEO) between 0.8 and 1.6 AU from the Sun (Earth is 1 AU).

On Monday, the USA space agency's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at a nearby asteroid that's of great importance to scientists: it might have answers about what early Earth was like, but there's a decent chance it might hit us, too.

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Mission team members want to make sure they nail down Bennu's mass and precise shape before slipping into orbit around the asteroid on December 31.

'We have arrived, ' technicians announced, spurring high-fives and clapping around the control room. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives Bennu a cumulative 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199.

This carbon-rich asteroid could be full of organic molecules, metals, platinum and even water - the essential ingredients for life.

If successful, the sample will be the biggest collection of space rock on earth since the heyday of space exploration in the 60s and 70s. It will be the first USA mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth and the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era. The space rock is of great interest to scientists because it is believed to be a piece that broke off from a larger, carbon-rich asteroid between 700 million and 2 billion years ago.

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Since the spacecraft's launch in September 2016, the CSIRO-managed, Canberra-based DeepSpace Communication Complex facility has provided two-way communication with the spacecraft. "Now we're at it again, working with our partners in the USA and Canada to accomplish the Herculean task of bringing back to Earth a piece of the early solar system". "We work together to understand the history of the solar system".

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