Shock as WATER discovered on asteroid Bennu — MAJOR NASA ANNOUNCEMENT

Shock as WATER discovered on asteroid Bennu — MAJOR NASA ANNOUNCEMENT

In addition, NASA today released OSIRIS-REx's best look at Bennu to date.

The $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission (whose name is short for "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer") launched in September 2016 and began its Bennu-approach phase in mid-August of this year.

"We can't wait to spend the next year mapping this asteroid", said Dante Lauretta, who now serves as the principal investigator on the OSIRIS-REx mission.

Measurements made over the past four months by the spacecraft's two onboard spectrometers revealed the presence of molecules containing hydroxyls - bonded-together oxygen and hydrogen atoms - on Bennu, Lauretta and fellow team members announced today.

"The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics", Amy Simon, OVIRS deputy instrument scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

"We targeted Bennu precisely because we thought it had water-bearing minerals", OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta told a news conference. Mission scientists think these hydroxyls are widespread across the asteroid, locked into clay minerals.

Scientists will spend a year scouting the space rock for a good location and then in 2020 it will dive close to the surface and a robotic arm will shoot nitrogen puffs into the soil and collect grains of dirt. Based on their model, the team expected the largest boulder on the asteroid to be about 33 feet (10 meters) tall.

Спутник OSIRIX-REx обнаружил воду на Бенну

But this new information poses no insurmountable threat. Bennu regularly crosses Earth's orbit and will come perilously close in about 150 years.

The mission is now performing a preliminary survey of the asteroid, flying the spacecraft in passes over Bennu's north pole, equator and south pole at ranges as close as 4.4 miles (7 km) to better determine the asteroid's mass.

"Our initial data show that the team picked the right asteroid as the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission". The spacecraft's first orbital insertion is scheduled for December 31, and OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until mid-February 2019, when the mission transitions into the next survey phase.

The spacecraft's first orbital insertion is scheduled for December 31, and OSIRIS-REx will remain in orbit until mid-February 2019, when it exits to initiate another series of flybys for the next survey phase. Though small asteroids can rotate very quickly, Bennu has a diameter just a bit bigger than the height of the Empire State Building and rotates relatively slowly, each 4.3 hours.

The abundance of these obstacles means the OSIRIS-REx team must plan out its sample-grabbing activities in great detail and with great care.

The sample from Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, could help scientists understand not only more about asteroids that could impact Earth but about how planets formed and life began.

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