Update for September 24: Astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, of the Virtual Telescope Project, successfully observed NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on the eve of its sample capsule landing last night. You can watch the video above to see.
OSIRIS-REx is on its way to landing its capsule in 10:55 AM EDT (1455 GMT) In the Utah desert, where a team of NASA scientists and engineers are waiting. You can watch it live on Space.com, starting at 10 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will pass by Earth this weekend, returning a sample collected from the potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu on Sunday (September 24).
Fingers crossed that space fans might be able to watch the first part of this historic sample return mission — the first time NASA has collected material from an asteroid and brought it home — live and for free online. That is, if all goes according to plan by Italian astrophysicist and astronomer Gianluca Masi and his virtual telescope project.
“I am very happy and excited to announce that the Virtual Telescope Project will attempt to share images of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, in real time, 12 hours before the launch of its precious return capsule with samples from the asteroid Bennu.” he said in an email to Space.com.
The live broadcast is set to It starts at 7pm EST (2300 GMT) on Saturday (September 23). Watch it live here on Space.com or at Virtual Telescope Project website. (Be aware that weather conditions or other factors could affect the project’s ability to monitor the OSIRIS-REx probe from Earth.)
Live updates: OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return for landing
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OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in September 2016 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, beginning a two-year journey to the 1,720-foot-wide (524-meter) asteroid 101955 Bennu. After arriving at the asteroid in August 2018, the spacecraft spent another two years observing Bennu’s surface.
When this scan was completed, the spacecraft got close enough to Bennu’s surface to retrieve material, nearly getting swallowed in the process. In 2021, with Bennu’s samples stored in a sample return capsule, OSIRIS-REx turned on its propulsion system and began the 1.2 billion mile (1.9 billion km) journey home.
When it arrives this weekend, the spacecraft will ditch its sample return tray and then leave our planet’s vicinity again, heading to a different asteroid. The canister is scheduled to land on the surface of the Earth in the western United States in the desert area surrounding the US Army Test and Training Range in Utah.
Asteroids like Bennu formed about 4.5 billion years ago, at a time when the solar system’s planets were being born from leftover material from planetary formation. This means that studying asteroid material could help reveal the state and composition of matter around the nascent Sun in the early solar system.
For two years after the sample’s return, from late 2023 until 2025, the sample will be cataloged and analysed. According to NASA. At least 75% of Bennu’s sample will be preserved at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston for future research.
“OSIRIS-REx’s many accomplishments have demonstrated the bold and innovative way in which real-time exploration is done,” said the Associate Administrator for Science at NASA Headquarters. Thomas Zurbuchen said. “We have a primordial piece of our solar system back on Earth where many generations of researchers can unravel its secrets.”
As this research is conducted with Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will change its name to OSIRIS-APEX and travel to the near-Earth asteroid Apophis, settling into orbit around the 1,200-foot-wide (370-meter) space rock by 2029.
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