This mosaic image shows Bennu’s entire surface and composition. (NASA)

Prince George’s County scientists help NASA spacecraft land on asteroid Bennu

A team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt is managing the OSIRIS-REx mission. The spacecraft traveled 200 million miles, orbited a spinning asteroid, and touched down on that asteroid in an area smaller than a couple of parking spaces. It’s all in an effort to collect a sample to bring back to Earth.

The asteroid, named Bennu, is about the size of the Empire State Building and holds insight into our very existence.

“We picked Bennu because it is the most accessible asteroid that contains ancient, carbon-rich material that will give us insight into the origins of the solar system, the origin of Earth, the origin of life, perhaps,” said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center.

 

There’s also a small chance Bennu could hit Earth more than a hundred years from now. Dworkin says this mission could help future generations divert it.

“What’s more, this information could be applied to other similar asteroids,” said Dworkin. “So when other asteroids are detected that might be hazardous, we can use what we’ve learned about navigating around such a small object.”

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