A probe sent by NASA took pictures of Asteroid Bennu, a remarkable asteroid. The majestic images came with a surprising conclusion as the researchers discovered that Bennnu isn’t exactly what they imagined.
The high-resolution images show that the asteroid is composed of rocks, instead of sand, as it was initially thought. At first sight, these may not seem to be a serious problem, but the Osiris lander was designed with sand in mind, and the existence of rocky surfaces leads to several issues.
The Osiris-REX probe surveyed the surface of the asteroid to create a map which could be used for the upcoming landing. The lander aboard the probe was fitted with a variety of tools which were prepared to analyze a surface which was covered in something similar to sand.
NASA Learned Valuable Data About Asteroid Bennu
Osiris-REX was launched in 2016 and managed to arrive near the asteroid in December 2018. NASA experts are confident that the steep terrain will not pose an issue since the spacecraft worked without problems until now, and it is deemed to be an exemplary mission. It can reach an impressive speed of 19,000 miles per hour, and the stable control scheme should allow the researchers to land in a relatively safe area.
It is hoped that an ideal landing site will be found as the team is after grains of material which are quite small, with a diameter of less than one inch. By collecting a few grains, they will achieve a new milestone as it will be the most significant payload brought back to Earth by an American spacecraft since the glory days of the Apollo missions.
Four potential landing sites have been identified by now, and two additional ones will be announced in the following months. The process is time-consuming, but a great landing site is essential for the success of the mission. After the samples are harvested, the spacecraft will return to Earths, arriving by September 2023.