In August, the craft snapped its first image of asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx will spend the next 18 months there, surveying the landscape and probing Bennu's chemical makeup before finally selecting what piece of the asteroid it wants to bring back home. The spacecraft will commence flyovers of Bennu's north pole, equatorial region, and south pole, getting as close as almost 4 miles (7 kilometers) above Bennu during each flyover.
That's why NASA has spent $800 million on the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) program, launching a spacecraft to the space rock for an up-close-and-personal inspection of Bennu. "Bennu is a building block of the planets that didn't end up in a planet". Those like Bennu contain natural resources, such as water, organics and metals.
Asteroids could even serve as fuel stations for robotic and human missions if we can unlock the hydrogen and oxygen inside them, NASA said.
Now on Earth, we don't entertain things that harm us.
The mission's navigation team will use the preliminary survey of Bennu to practice the delicate task of navigating around the asteroid.
"By the time we collect the sample in 2020 we will have a much better idea of the probability that Bennu would impact Earth in the next 150 years", Reuters quoted mission spokeswoman Erin Morton as saying.
On Tuesday, the spacecraft will fly within 5 miles of Bennu, which will help design future orbits and map the surface.
Asked how he was feeling at the moment of arrival, principal investigator Dante Lauretta tweeted, "relieved, proud and anxious to start exploring!" "Initial data from the approach phase show this object to have exceptional scientific value. The exploration of Bennu has just begun, and we have a lifetime of adventure ahead of us". "Watching the team celebrate such an wonderful milestone brings personal joy to me in so many ways I can't even explain", Heather Enos, the Osiris-Rex deputy principal investigator said of the momentous occasion.
The mission marks the first attempt by a United States craft to successfully land on an asteroid following Japan's recent success with the Ryugu asteroid, which is approximately double the size of Bennu. This mission will provide the most detailed analysis of carbon rich asteroids and will provide answers about the evolution of the solar system and our own planet.
From that stage, the spacecraft will begin gradually tightening its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 1.8m of its surface. "Now we embark on gaining experience flying our spacecraft about such a small body". It completed the journey with a 20-second thruster burn to arrive within 12 miles (19km) of the 1,600ft (500-meter) diameter, diamond-shaped space rock. On the third flyby, Lauretta said the high-resolution MapCam color camera will take images. The spacecraft won't land but use a three-metre mechanical arm in 2020 to momentarily touch down and pick up particles. He expects those pictures to be back on Earth around 10 December, when a press conference is scheduled at the AGU fall meeting in Washington, D.C. There, the OSIRIS-REx team plans to present early Bennu science results.
Bennu is 76m miles (122m km) away so it took seven minutes for word of the success to reach flight controllers at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado, where the spacecraft was built.
"It will really be record-breaking in terms of the precision, the navigation, compared to anything we've done before", said flight navigator Coralie Adam, an engineer at aerospace company KinetX. During this webcast, NASA officials and scientists will discuss the mission in depth.