NASA mission reveals asteroid has big surprises

NASA's plan to scoop up dirt from asteroid hits a snag

Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. Scientists also think that asteroids like Bennu may have brought water and organic materials to Earth, helping to spark the earliest formation of life. Inching closer to the planetoid for more than two years, the ship on December 31 entered into orbit around the asteroid, making it the smallest object ever to be circled by a spacecraft.

One concept into account by OSIRIS-REx's science crew is that the plume outbursts may very well be associated with Bennu's place in its orbit across the solar.

Research led by CU Boulder is revealing the Alice in Wonderland-like physics that govern gravity near the surface of the asteroid Bennu. Both asteroids are more rugged and rocky than anticipated.

The discovery "is probably the biggest surprise of the early stages of the OSIRIS-REx mission and, I would say, one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career", OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, of the University of Arizona, said during a news conference March 19, reports Geek Wire. Such a rugged terrain introduces more risk into the sample collection, as it could throw the spacecraft off or larger particles could clog the sampler. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started.

But when OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in December, the mission team quickly realized that their vision of a smooth, beachy asteroid was a little off. At that point, the team increased the frequency of observations, finding the dust ejection was not a one-time event - Bennu does this continuously.

On Tuesday, they announced that Bennu's surface is actually covered in boulders, making an eventual touchdown for a spacecraft that much more hard to navigate.

After a careful survey of Bennu to characterise the asteroid and locate the most promising sample sites, Osiris-Rex will collect between 2 and 70 ounces (about 60 to 2,000 grams) of surface material with its robotic arm and return the sample to Earth via a detachable capsule in 2023. The OSIRIS-REx team determined the particles do not pose a threat to the spacecraft or the mission. The team continues to analyze the particle plumes and their possible causes.

Experts had expected Bennu's surface to be relatively smooth and even, but instead it is described as rough and densely covered in boulders.

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Scientists also discovered that the asteroid's spin is speeding up to the tune of around one second per century.

"We study asteroids like Bennu to learn about the origin of the solar system".

Lori Glaze, the agency's director of planetary science, said she is "confident that the scientists and engineers will retrieve a sample of Bennu", adding that NASA is used to dealing with missions that require "surprises, quick thinking and doing what it takes to get good science". OSIRIS-Rex's sample will help us answer some of the biggest questions about where we come from'.

The larger number of boulders and the smaller sample site is also expected to require much more precise maneuvering by the spacecraft during its descent to the surface.

During this phase, OSIRIS-REx will dip down to collect a sample.

"We were looking originally for a 25-meter-radius hazard-free zone".

Before OSIRIS-REx launch from Cape Canaveral back in 2016.

Bennu is full of surprises, NASA said in a recent statement.

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