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OSIRIS-REx and asteroid Bennu

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 13, Jan 2022
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Reference News:

  • OSIRIS-REx is bringing back an asteroid sample. It will arrive home in 2023, ejecting a capsule full of samples that may help eager scientists decipher the origin of Earth’s water and life.
  • The debris NASA’s asteroid-touching spacecraft collected could help us learn about the origins of our solar system.


On October 20th, 2021, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched asteroid Bennu, from where it is meant to collect samples of dust and pebbles and deliver them back to Earth in 2023.

What is the OSIRIS-REx mission?

OSIRIS-Rex stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.

This is NASA’s first mission meant to return a sample from the ancient asteroid.

Launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018.

The departure window for the mission will open up in 2021, after which it will take over two years to reach back to Earth.

Asteroid Bennu:

  • The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.
  • Scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s formation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
  • Because of Bennu’s age, it is likely to contain material that contains molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth, where life forms are based on carbon atom chains.
  • Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about four per cent of the light that hits it, which is very low when compared with a planet like Venus, which reflects about 65 per cent of the light that hits it. Earth reflects about 30 per cent.
  • It classified as a Near Earth Object (NEO), might strike the Earth in the next century, between the years 2175 and 2199.

Site for sample collection:

NASA has selected a site located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere designated “Nightingale”.

Why are scientists studying asteroids?

To look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system.

To look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous.