Six things you need to know are here.
NASA is about to land a spacecraft and suck some dirt off a lumpy asteroid called Bennu.
But after nearly two years of circling the tiny space rock between Earth and Mars, they’re going to give it an Australian time early tomorrow morning.
That is not an easy thing to do, just in case you’re curious.
Why is NASA aspiring to land on an asteroid?
Asteroids do not look that interesting on the floor.
In reality, however, these piles of rubble are time capsules that can help us decipher how the solar system formed.
They are literally chips from a much bigger block that was killed during the early solar system by a cataclysmic collision.
101955 Out of more than 500,000 identified asteroids between Earth and Mars, NASA picked Bennu.
It is only one of 26 asteroids that spins slowly enough for a spacecraft to land on, at about 500 meters in diameter.
It is a type of asteroid known as a carbonaceous chondrite that is believed to be rich in life’s building blocks, such as carbon and water.
Heather Enos, deputy head of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, said, “We really targeted a carbon asteroid that really would lead us to pristine material that would give us the best look back in time in terms of what was happening in the creation of the solar system.”
About Bennu, what do we know?
For almost two years, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been circling the asteroid, mapping every nook and crane of space rock and studying items like its topography, geology and chemical composition.
Now we know:
- It’s a lot rockier than we imagined it would be.
- And it accelerates with time , causing it to bulge at the equator,
- As well as magnetite (a form of iron) and small quantities of pyroxine (a mineral contained on another asteroid), it has oodles of water and organic carbon in its rocks.
- There are enormous carbonate veins (carbon changed by water) in some rocks, which is an indication that water has flowed through these rocks in the past.
- It throws tiny pebbles into space , meaning that it is still involved in some way.
- And it has a poor field of gravity that takes those raining pebbles back to the surface.