NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx recently visited an asteroid and collected a sample, making it the first NASA craft to do so. This week, OSIRIS-REx will begin its journey home to Earth, and NASA will be livestreaming the event with information about the mission and about what we can hope to learn by bringing a sample of an asteroid here to study.
OSIRIS-REx is currently in orbit around asteroid Bennu, where it has been located since 2018. Now, the spacecraft must fire its thrusters to change its velocity — for a total change of 595 miles per hour — to put it on the right path to head back to Earth.
This is complicated, however, by the fact that the craft won’t arrive at Earth until 2023, so it can’t head for where Earth is now — it has to head for where Earth will be. “There is no straight path back to Earth. Like a quarterback throwing a long pass to where a receiver will be in the future, OSIRIS-REx is traveling to where the Earth will be,” NASA writes. “The spacecraft will circle the Sun twice, covering 1.4 billion miles (2.3 billion kilometers) over to catch up with Earth. ”
This long journey begins with a maneuver scheduled for this Monday, May 10.
“At approximately 4:16 p.m. EDT, the OSIRIS-REx control room located at Lockheed Martin, in Littleton, Colorado, will receive a confirmation that the spacecraft fired its main thrusters to push away from asteroid Bennu’s orbit, approximately 16 minutes after it happened,” NASA writes. “After 7 minutes of firing its thrusters, OSIRIS-REx will officially start its long journey home with more than 2.1 ounces (60 grams) of asteroid material.”
NASA will be streaming the event live, showing the mission controllers as they receive the signal from OSIRIS-REx that it has made its maneuver, as also showing off new data from the mission including images the spacecraft took as it passed over asteroid Bennu for one last time. Engineers and scientists involved in the project will be also featured on the live stream, explaining the importance of the mission and how the team overcame the challenges which come from visiting a target so far away.
You can watch the event using either the video embedded at the top of this page or by visiting NASA’s website. The livestream will begin at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) on Monday, May 10.
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