Asteroid Bennu’s Floor Like a Pit of Plastic Balls, NASA’s Spacecraft Nearly Sank Into It, Say Scientists


Whereas scientists believed that asteroid Bennu had a easy and plain floor, they have been not too long ago astonished to be taught the true nature of its exterior. An evaluation of the info gathered by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft revealed that Bennu’s floor consists of loosely packed particles that resemble a pit stuffed with plastic balls.

The newest revelation was made after OSIRIS-REx collected samples from the asteroid in October 2020 and despatched again close-up and detailed photos of Bennu’s floor to Earth. “What we noticed was an enormous wall of particles radiating out from the pattern web site. We have been like, ‘Holy cow!’” stated Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, based mostly on the College of Arizona.

Scientists noticed the floor coated with quite a few pebbles whereas the spacecraft additionally witnessed an unusually mild touchdown. A big crater measuring 8 metres vast was additionally seen that had been shaped because of the landing of the spacecraft. “Each time we examined the pattern pickup process within the lab, we barely made a divot,” stated Lauretta.

Puzzled by the unusual property of Bennu’s floor, the mission determined to ship the spacecraft again to take extra pictures. Scientists appeared on the quantity of particles in earlier than and after photos whereas in addition they analysed the acceleration information in the course of the spacecraft’s touchdown. It was discovered that OSIRIS-REx skilled little or no resistance when it made the contact down. Ron Ballouz, an OSIRIS-REx scientist, shared that “by the point we fired our thrusters to depart the floor we have been nonetheless plunging into the asteroid.”

The workforce of scientists carried out a whole lot of simulations and used the acceleration information and pictures to interpret the density and cohesion of the asteroid. The findings have been revealed in two papers in Science and Science Advances which have been led by Dante Lauretta and member of the OSIRIS-REx science workforce Kevin Walsh, respectively.

The asteroid had shocked earlier too when OSIRIS-REx noticed its floor to be stuffed with boulders fairly than a sandy and easy floor they’d anticipated.


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