The end of the 6.2 billion km journey: The OSIRIS-REx capsule successfully landed

The 6.2 billion km long journey was successfully completed. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completed its historic mission by delivering samples of the asteroid Bennu to Earth. This event is a landmark for science and space exploration. For the first time in history, the American Space Agency took a sample of the substance of an asteroid and brought it to our planet.

Capsule with samples from the asteroid Bennu, delivered by the OSIRIS-REx probe (NASA), shortly after landing in the desert on Sunday, September 24, 2023. Source: NASA

The OSIRIS-REx mission became a big challenge for NASA scientists and engineers. The spacecraft made a long journey to reach the asteroid Bennu (101955 Bennu). After that, it performed a complex operation to take a sample of the substance from its surface. The sample weighs about 250 grams and contains both rocks and other materials of great scientific importance. They will help scientists answer many questions about the origin of life on Earth and the evolution of our Solar System.

Illustration of the OSIRIS-REx probe performing engine activation near the Earth. Image: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

The process of returning the capsule with samples to Earth was very difficult and dangerous. NASA was preparing for everything, even for the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the specialists of the space agency closely monitored the entire return process and conducted an online broadcast.

The capsule began its descent at a high speed, reaching 43 thousand km/h, because of which its heat shield warmed up to 2900 °C. However, thanks to a high-precision engineering calculation, it landed safely on a deserted US Army training site in Utah.

Capsule of the OSIRIS-REx mission (NASA) shortly after landing in the desert on Sunday, September 24, 2023. Image authorship: NASA

After landing, NASA and military teams inspected the capsule and the surrounding area to make sure it was safe. The results showed that the capsule was intact and ready for further processing and analysis.

The sample of the asteroid Bennu has already been delivered to the Johnson Space Center (NASA’s JSC) in Houston, Texas. A specially equipped ARES laboratory is waiting for it there. This place will become the main one for further scientific research of valuable samples.

The success of this mission testifies to the great contribution of NASA engineers and scientists, demonstrating that there is nothing unattainable for science and technology. Samples of the asteroid Bennu will be distributed among various scientific institutions and space agencies, which will help them to investigate in more detail and expand our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

The OSIRIS-REx team stands around the capsule before placing it in a clean room. Image: NASA

The OSIRIS-REx mission has become an example of how scientific interest and cooperation can lead to great achievements in the field of space exploration and the disclosure of the secrets of the Universe. This event will continue to inspire us to make new discoveries and explore the unknown depths of the Universe.

Earlier we explained why the asteroid Bennu was interesting.

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