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

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Almost two years in the past, NASA made historical past when its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly to gather a regolith pattern from the floor of the asteroid. Whereas the mission received’t return to Earth , NASA shared new details about the celestial physique. In an revealed 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 certain to one another that if an individual have been to step onto Bennu they’d really feel little or no resistance, as if stepping right into a pit of plastic balls which are fashionable play areas for teenagers,” NASA mentioned.

That’s not what scientists thought they’d discover on Bennu. Observing the asteroid from Earth, the expectation was that its floor can be coated in clean, 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) broad crater. In lab testing, the pickup process “barely made a divot.” 

After analyzing information 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 depart the floor, we have been nonetheless plunging into the asteroid,” mentioned Ron Ballouz, a scientist with the OSIRIS-REx workforce.

Based on 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,” mentioned OSIRIS-REx workforce member Patrick Michel.

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