The OSIRIS-REx probe will attempt to take a sample of the asteroid Bennu (illustration). - AP / SIPA

As part of its OSIRIS-REx mission, NASA will attempt to collect a sample of the asteroid Bennu in order to bring it back to our planet. This is the very first attempt to collect a sample intended to return to Earth ever organized by the American space agency. This first test will take place on October 20, announced this Wednesday NASA in a statement.

The asteroid Bennu whose trajectory crosses the orbit of the Earth, would have formed at the same time as the planets of our solar system. As the Numerama site explains, its exploration could allow us to advance our knowledge of the origins of these planets.

A sample of a few tens of grams

Currently in orbit around Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx space probe's mission is to take a sample of about 60 grams, directly on the surface of the asteroid. The sampling site, called Nightingale, is located in a crater 140 meters wide.

If all goes well, a dedicated mechanism of OSIRIS-REx will come into contact with the surface of the asteroid for about 5 seconds, the time to send a pressurized nitrogen discharge and recover a sample of material.

Rehearsal next August

Originally, this levy was scheduled for August 25. But the constraints imposed by the coronavirus epidemic forced the space agency to postpone the mission, in order to allow the teams to prepare properly.

A final rehearsal is scheduled for August 11: on this occasion, the space probe will perform the first three maneuvers planned during sample collection, just 40 meters from the surface of the asteroid. The OSIRIS-REx mission should then leave the asteroid in mid-May 2021.


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