NASA has recently chosen a site for its asteroid sample collection mission. It took them a year of studying. The asteroid, called 101955 Bennu, is 1,614 feet – that’s 492 m, wide near-Earth object one. It has a 1-in-2,700 chance of hitting our planet.
The chosen site is called Nightingale, and it is found in a young crater, that’s placed in the northern hemisphere of the asteroid.
OSIRIS-REx – The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer – had been analyzing Bennu since December last year. If the mission is successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first US spacecraft actually to bring back on Earth samples of an asteroid.
Bennu will be like a time-capsule, one from the birth of the solar system, which will get info about the formation and evolution of the solar system. Its make-up out of carbon will give us a window on the formation of the organic compounds, which on Earth made the origin of life possible.
The OSIRIS-REx team has spent the last few months looking into the potential of four candidates sampling the sites on Bennu, all based on the data collected by the spacecraft.
Every site out of these four sites – Nightingale, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Sandpiper had been put forward because they were not as dangerous as others to OSIRIS-REx, and they could give us many essential details.
The sites got the bird names from Bennu itself, which is a name taken from the ancient Egyptian bird deity, which is known to be linked with the rebirth, creation, and the sun.
OSIRIS-REx is meant to collect small samples from Bennu, by getting on the surface of the asteroid, at first. Then, it will use a burst of nitrogen gas in order to blast the samples.