NASA mission to a potentially dangerous asteroid Bennu that could collide with the Earth is on the correct path, and the agency has tested its thrusters to fine-tune its trajectory. The spacecraft will reach the asteroid and bring back samples from the asteroid.
Bennu asteroid is one of those asteroids that was speculated to hit Earth in the 22 century, and there is a chance of 1 in 2,700 of the asteroid hitting the earth. It is an asteroid about 500 meters, and not much is known about its composition. It was discovered in 1999 as a part of the LINEAR project.
The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft was sent to the asteroid to collect samples which will be returned sometime in 2023 for further studies. Knowledge of the composition of the asteroid is necessary to exactly tell if the asteroid is going to impact the planet in the future. The impact of asteroids of this size happens regularly every 130,000 years.
The mission is important also because it will increase our knowledge of the origin of our Solar System since the asteroid was formed as a remnant during the formation of the solar system. It will also help scientists’ understand the conditions during the birth of Sun and its planets which happened some 4.5 billion years ago. Researchers also contend that asteroids like Bennu could also be the source of water and other organic molecules, which helped to kickstart life on the planet.
It is a $800 million project, and its ultimate goal is to collect samples from the asteroid. It has been listed as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid which could end life on Earth even though the odds are low. The body could hit the planet sometime in 2175 and 2199. The spacecraft will reach its destination in 2018 and will spend the next two years orbiting and selecting a spot to take samples.