Out of This World

NASA makes their first landing on an asteroid

Tyson Gagliano, Reporter

NASA has announced that they successfully landed a spacecraft on the asteroid Bennu and collected a sample. It is the first attempt by NASA to land a spacecraft on an asteroid.

The craft was launched in September of 2016 and reached the asteroid in December of 2018. It then circled the asteroid for almost 2 years before finally making the landing and collecting the sample. It is expected to return to earth in 2023.

The spacecraft named ORIRIS-REx was on the surface of Bennu for only around 6 to 16 seconds collecting soil off the surface with a robotic arm attached to the craft. Scientists are hoping to collect around 2.1 ounces of soil.

ORIRIS-REx released a bottle of high-pressure nitrogen gas which in return stirred up dust for the craft to collect. “TAGSAM operated, the back-away thrusters fired, so were safely moving away from the asteroid surface” Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator from the University of Arizona, said.

NASA plans to study the material to possibly gain clues about the origins of life and asteroids role could have played delivering life forming compounds to earth. Bennu also contains valuable materials such as iron and aluminum.

If the sample returns safely, it will be the largest sample brought home from space since the Apollo missions.