Voyage to Asteroid “Bennu”

NASA has launched a spacecraft mission called OSIRIS-REx, which will spend several years traveling toward an intercept with an asteroid that is called, “101955 Bennu” in the year 2020. Bennu is part of a group that is known as the “Apollo” class of asteroids and is categorized as a “Near Earth Asteroid” because it crosses the orbital path of Earth and may even come close enough for an impact at some point in the future.

Bennu has a diameter of about 500 meters (1,600 feet), and travels at an average orbital speed of 63,000 mph. The orbit varies from a minimum (perihelion) of 0.8 AU to a maximum (aphelion) of 1.36 AU. [1.0 AU is the standard distance of Earth from the Sun] Bennu has an orbital pathway that is inclined by 6 degrees from the ecliptic plane (the plane of reference set by the rotation of the Sun and most planets orbiting the Sun). Bennu takes 1.2 years to complete an orbit and has a close encounter with Earth every six years. Bennu rotates 4.3 times every hour, which is slow enough to enable a spacecraft to match the rotation.

NASA | Asteroid Bennu’s Journey

– [youtube.com]

Bennu’s Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, Asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, Asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood – the early solar system. Bennu’s Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.

Learn more about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission and the making of Bennu’s Journey: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/bennus-journey

After spending about a year mapping and studying the surface of the asteroid, the spacecraft will accomplish a near landing and attempt to scope up some samples in the process. It will then return to Earth.

Why NASA Picked Space Rock Bennu for Its Asteroid-Sampling Mission

“Bennu’s size, primitive and carbon-rich composition and orbit make it one of the most fascinating and accessible asteroids, and that is why it was ultimately chosen as the target asteroid for the OSIRIS-REx mission,” Christina Richey, OSIRIS-REx deputy program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., said during a news conference Tuesday (Sept. 6).

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