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NASA's Osiris-Rex probe begins its two-year journey back to Earth

NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe begins its two-year journey back to Earth

The spacecraft Osiris Rex and the asteroid Bennu. Illustrative image. (NASA / MAXPPP)

Osiris-Rex is a two-and-a-half two-ton spacecraft that has been holding an asteroid called Bennu, somewhere in the depths of our solar system. It begins with a very, very long journey to our planet: more than two years crossing space and twice around the Sun to travel before returning to the horizon. Above all, he drops his precious cargo: rock samples.

It is a very small amount of material that can be removed and secured on board the ship. A few dozen or even hundreds of grams of rocks are hard to figure out. Osiris-Rex went to take them straight from Bennu, last October. Incredible operation: hundreds of millions of kilometers from us, while all the information takes roughly 20 minutes to travel that distance, the probe armed with a telescopic arm went to prick the surface of the asteroid, a pebble with a diameter of barely 500 meters. A shock for a few seconds liberated in space a portion of this rocky land that had to be absorbed quickly, and put away in a capsule that we thought for a moment would not be able to align.

Finally, the fear became more than harm, the shipment has been safe since then and specialists around the world are impatient to be able to recover these unprecedented materials.These dust samples should tell us a lot about the origin of our solar system. Asteroids are already witness to the most distant times, 4.5 billion years ago, when gases and particles floating in the vacuum of space began to clump, forming stars of various sizes around our sun. Thus were born the planets and small pieces of rock, and space pebbles of a few dozen or hundreds of meters in length, confined to very cold regions, which made it possible to preserve their original state.

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It’s a bit like Christmas at the moment for the scientific community, physicists, astrophysicists, and geochemists! Last December, dust samples from another asteroid this time taken by a Japanese probe. Hayabusa 2, He reaches Earth, at the end of the mission equivalent to the Osiris-Rex. The first samples of this species have ever been reported, a few grams, which are carefully preserved and prepared for initial analyzes. French laboratories are associated with this work in Lille, Nancy and Paris.

For his part, if all goes well, Osiris-Rex will drop its payload on September 24, 2023. The probe will then finish its mission by disintegrating into the atmosphere unless it has enough fuel to try to return to invading another asteroid …