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Asteroid NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission landed on had a surface like a ‘pit of plastic balls’


Practically two years in the past, NASA made historical past when its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly collected a regolith pattern from the floor of the asteroid. Whereas the mission will not return to Earth, NASA shared new details about the celestial physique. In an printed this week (through ), the company revealed OSIRIS-REx would have sunk into Bennu had the spacecraft not instantly fired its thrusters after touching the asteroid’s floor.

“It seems that the particles making up Bennu’s exterior are so loosely packed and flippantly sure to one another that if an individual had been to step onto Bennu they might really feel little or no resistance, as if stepping right into a pit of plastic balls which can be common play areas for youths,” NASA stated.

That is not what scientists thought they might discover on Bennu. Observing the asteroid from Earth, the expectation was that its floor could be coated in easy, sandy beach-like materials. Bennu’s response to OSIRIS-REx’s landing additionally had scientists puzzled. After briefly interacting with the asteroid, the spacecraft left a 26-foot (8-meter) large crater. In lab testing, the pickup process “barely made a divot.”

After analyzing knowledge from the spacecraft, they discovered it encountered the identical quantity of resistance an individual on Earth would really feel whereas squeezing the plunger on a French press espresso carafe. “By the point we fired our thrusters to go away the floor, we had been nonetheless plunging into the asteroid,” stated Ron Ballouz, a scientist with the OSIRIS-REx staff.

In response to NASA, its findings on Bennu might assist scientists higher interpret distant observations of different asteroids. In flip, that would assist the company design future asteroid missions. “I feel we’re nonetheless at first of understanding what these our bodies are, as a result of they behave in very counterintuitive methods,” stated OSIRIS-REx staff member Patrick Michel.

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