NASA Spacecraft Spots Signal Of Water On Asteroid Bennu

NASA Spacecraft Spots Signal Of Water On Asteroid Bennu

NASA Spacecraft Spots Signal Of Water On Asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx mission's goals include understanding what kinds of stuff asteroids contain, characterising Bennu's motion in case its trajectory ever threatens Earth, and learning about what the Solar System was like in its earliest days.

It found water "locked deep inside the asteroid", with scientists now planning on bringing a sample back to earth.

Team members of the mission, which is led by the University of Arizona, presented the results at the Annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, or AGU, in Washington, D.C. on December 10. After reaching its target earlier this month, the crafy is now observing the rocky world remotely as scientists decide where to land.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules - part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life - embedded in the asteroid's rocky surface. The finding could help reveal how Earth got much of its water, as well as provide hope to future asteroid miners.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on the earth, scientists said on Monday.

The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics. However, the quantity of boulders on the surface is higher than expected. One of the most intriguing surface features is a prominent boulder sticking up near Bennu's south pole.

The spacecraft will collect samples from the space rock which could pave the way for an asteroid mining industry, with some of them worth trillions of dollars due to their minerals which are scarce on Earth such as platinum.

A Lightweight Space Rock The results also reveal that the asteroid has a density just under 75 pounds per cubic foot (1,200 kg/m ). During this first orbital phase, the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid at a range of 0.9 miles (1.4 km) to 1.24 miles (2 km) from the center of Bennu - setting two new records for the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft and the closest orbit of a planetary body by any spacecraft. This likely means that Bennu is porous, filled with holes and caves like a sponge. Both the spacecraft and asteroid's names come from Egyptian mythology. Lauretta said it looks like Bennu was once a chunk of a bigger asteroid that probably had water in it.

Initial surveys of the asteroid will continue until December 31 in order for scientists to understand the asteroid's mass. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.

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