NASA’s spacecraft, the OSIRIS-REx has started orbiting the asteroid Bennu, the smallest object in space to be circled by a man made spacecraft. It is the first ever US designed mission to return a sample of the asteroid’s dust to Earth.
At about 2:43 PM, (19:43 GMT), on the 31st of December, the spacecraft fired it’s thrusters and started orbiting the asteroid Bennu, breaking records, making this 1600 feet diametre asteroid the smallest object in space to be orbited by this unmanned spacecraft.
According to Dan Wibben, OSIRIS REx Maneuver and Trajectory Design Lead, With a gravity force five-millionth as strong as Earth’s, the solar radiation and thermal pressure from Bennu’s surface are much more relevant and can push the spacecraft around in its orbit much more than if it was orbiting around Earth or Mars, where gravity is by far the most dominant force.
There stands a one in 2,700 probability of this asteroid’s collision with Earth in 2135. Scientists chose this particular asteroid to carry out their valuable research on the creation of the solar system and finding water and metals on asteroids because it orbits close to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun and is the perfect size for scientific study.
The spacecraft is scheduled to touch the surface of the asteroid in the summer of 2020 and it’s mission is to deliver a sample to Earth in 2023.