NASA's plan to scoop up dirt from asteroid hits a snag

NASA's plan to scoop up dust and gravel from an asteroid has hit a snag, however scientists say they can triumph over it.

The asteroid Bennu became concept to have wide, open regions suitable for the challenge. But a recently arrived spacecraft revealed the asteroid is covered with boulders, and there do not appear to be any huge, flat spots that could be used to grab samples.

In a paper released Tuesday via the magazine Nature, scientists say they plan to take a more in-depth study some smaller regions that would paintings. They said sampling from the ones spots poses "a sizeable challenge."

"But I am assured this group is up to that widespread undertaking," the assignment's lead scientist, Dante Lauretta, advised journalists at a information convention.

The spacecraft, referred to as Osiris-Rex, is scheduled to descend close to the surface within the summer season of 2020. It will amplify a robotic arm to select up the pattern, if you want to be again to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft commenced orbiting Bennu on the cease of last year, after spending  years chasing down the space rock.

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When the project become planned, scientists were aiming to take dirt and gravel from an area measuring at the least 50 metres in diameter that changed into free of boulders or steep slopes, which could pose a chance.

"It is a greater rugged floor than we anticipated," stated Lauretta, of the University of Arizona in Tucson and one of the paper's authors. But he said he believed a pattern ought to nevertheless be collected.

NASA assignment supervisor Rich Burns said a niche can be chosen this summer season and the setback won't put off the sampling.

Patrick Taylor, who research asteroids on the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston but did not participate in the spacecraft venture, cited in a phone interview that the spacecraft became evidently manoeuvring extra accurately and exactly than have been anticipated.

"That gives me confidence they will be able to try a sample acquisition," he said.

Bennu is 110 million kilometres from Earth. It's estimated to be just over 500 metres across and is the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

A Japanese spacecraft, Hayabusa2, touched down on some other asteroid in February, additionally on a undertaking to acquire cloth. Japan controlled to go back a few tiny particles in 2010 from its first asteroid assignment.

Japan's space business enterprise said Monday its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up that up with every other unstable challenge — losing an explosive on the asteroid to make a crater and then collect underground samples for possible clues to the starting place of the solar gadget.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Hayabusa2 will drop an impactor the dimensions of a baseball weighing two kilograms at the asteroid on April 5 to collect samples from deeper underground that have not been uncovered to the sun or space rays.


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