Status: 25/09/2023, 19:03 p.m.
By: Tanja Banner
The NASA probe "Osiris-Rex" was on the road for seven years, and now it has thrown soil samples from an asteroid to Earth. The events in the live ticker.
- NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft took seven years and seven billion kilometers to retrieve a rock sample from the dangerous asteroid Bennu to Earth.
- "Osiris-Rex" dropped the capsule with the rock sample above the earth, it landed safely.
- The events of the important space mission in the live ticker.
Summary from September 24, 2023, 19:00 p.m.: It took seven years and seven billion kilometers from start to finish: NASA's Osiris-Rex mission brought rock samples from the asteroid "Bennu" to Earth on schedule today, Sunday. Some of these samples will now be distributed to researchers around the world who want to study them. A large proportion of the samples are safely stored for the future. Scientists will then be able to use new techniques and instruments to analyze the soil samples.
But why was such a large and elaborate mission launched to bring samples of an asteroid to the ground? Because asteroids are considered in research to be "time capsules" in which the conditions from the time in which the solar system was formed are preserved. With the help of the soil samples, the research wants to look into the past of the solar system and also find out whether astronomy was actually responsible for the emergence of life on Earth.
Scientists suspect that asteroids once brought water and "building blocks of life" such as carbon to Earth. Last but not least, it is also about how asteroids are composed exactly. This knowledge is important should an asteroid ever become dangerous to Earth. Incidentally, a large part of the asteroid sample will first be stored in order to be able to be analyzed in the future with more advanced instruments and expanded knowledge.
NASA mission "Osiris-Rex" comes to a successful end
Update from September 24, 2023, 18:15 p.m.: The helicopter transporting the capsule with the asteroid rock samples takes off.
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:54 p.m.: The capsule is now being transported by helicopter to the nearby cleanroom.
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:50 p.m.: The soil samples in the capsule come from the asteroid "Bennu" – the most dangerous asteroid currently known to NASA. There is a small chance that "Bennu" will collide with Earth in 2182. The asteroid has a diameter of about 500 meters and was discovered in 1999.
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The capsule with the valuable soil sample from the asteroid "Bennu" has landed in the desert in the US state of Utah. © NASA/Keegan Barber
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:25 p.m.: The two NASA employees confirm: There are no dangerous gases emanating from the capsule. By the way, this was primarily about the battery that was used in the capsule. It became very hot when it entered the Earth's atmosphere, which could have led to outgassing.
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:22 p.m.: Two NASA employees are now approaching the capsule wearing protective masks. They check whether the capsule is safe – after all, it has been in space for a long time. The two employees take tests, measurements and photos before other team members are allowed to approach.
Nasa helicopter lands near the capsule
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:15 p.m.: The first helicopter has landed near the capsule. Now it is first checked whether people can approach the capsule. The next step is to secure the capsule so that the valuable contents have no contact with the earth's environment.
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:10 p.m.: Finally, the capsule was found on the huge site.
Update from September 24, 2023, 17:03 p.m.: When the recovery team arrives at the capsule, it is taken to a specially equipped clean room nearby and checked there. A sealed container containing the soil samples will then be taken to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
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Update from September 24, 2023, 16:56 p.m.: The capsule landed a little earlier than NASA expected. Now, however, things are continuing as planned: The recovery team is now looking for exactly where the capsule has come down and will secure it.
Nasa's "Osiris Rex" mission: capsule has landed in the desert
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:52 p.m.: The capsule has landed!
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:50 p.m.: The capsule on the typical red and white Nasa parachute will now sail down to Earth for about five minutes.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:48 p.m.: The large parachute has opened, NASA confirms.
A NASA team is monitoring the landing of a capsule dropped over Earth by the Osiris-Rex probe. © Screenshot Nasa-Livestream/X
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:45 p.m.: Even though the Osiris-Rex space probe is to move away from Earth, it will come particularly close to Earth at this time: there are only 779 kilometers between the probe and Earth.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:44 p.m.: The parachute is deployed at an altitude of about 31 kilometers and stabilizes the capsule. Nasa has confirmed the opening on time.
|Schedule of the Osiris-Rex landing on September 24|
|12:42 p.m. (CEST):||The Osiris-Rex spacecraft releases the capsule - if the mission team has previously given the go.|
|13:02 p.m. (CEST):||Osiris-Rex launches the engines to move on their new trajectory - away from Earth and towards the asteroid Apophis.|
|16:42 p.m. (CEST):||The capsule enters the Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of about 132 kilometers. It has a speed of about 44,500 km/h.|
|16:43 p.m. (CEST):||The capsule now reaches the highest temperature during re-entry. It is now 2760 degrees Celsius.|
|16:44 p.m. (CEST):||The parachute is deployed at an altitude of about 31 kilometers and stabilizes the capsule.|
|16:45 p.m. (CEST):||Even though the Osiris-Rex space probe is to move away from Earth, it will come particularly close to Earth at this time: there are only 779 kilometers between the probe and Earth.|
|16:50 p.m. (CEST):||The main parachute of the capsule now opens at an altitude of about 1,6 kilometers.|
|16:55 p.m. (CEST):||The capsule of the Osiris-Rex spacecraft lands on Earth - hopefully with a lot of material from the asteroid Bennu.|
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:42 p.m.: The capsule with the asteroid rock has entered the Earth's atmosphere, NASA confirms.
Nasa's "Osiris Rex" mission is coming to an end
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:40 p.m.: At the most violent moment of the fall to Earth, the capsule will feel 32 times the force of Earth's gravity. The capsule gets so hot that NASA can track it from Earth using infrared imaging.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:36 p.m.: Where exactly the capsule will land is not clear until it hangs on the parachute. But it's not long until then... An area of 58x14 kilometers was set as the landing site. Somewhere in this area, the capsule is supposed to come down.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:31 p.m.: It's starting to get exciting. At 16:42 p.m., the capsule is scheduled to enter Earth's atmosphere and land 13 minutes later. The task of "Osiris-Rex" was to collect at least 60 grams of soil samples. However, no one knows how much is actually in the capsule at the moment. The probe lost some of the collected material immediately, but enough material is likely to have landed in the capsule. The mission team estimates that there are 250 grams plus or minus 101 grams of asteroid material in the capsule. We will only know more precisely after the capsule has been opened.
Nasa waits for rock samples from asteroid "Bennu"
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:25 p.m.: By the way, "Osiris-Rex" is not the first mission to bring a rock sample from an asteroid to Earth. Japan has actually already done it twice: the probe "Hayabusa" took soil samples from the asteroid "Itokawa", "Hayabusa 2" visited the asteroid "Ryugu". Today, however, it is the first U.S. mission to bring asteroid rocks to Earth.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:20 p.m.: About 20 minutes ago, NASA's "recovery" team set off with helicopters and trucks to the planned loading point. They will be ready when the capsule lands on Earth at 16:55 p.m. on a parachute.
Update from September 24, 2023, 16:15 p.m.: The asteroid "Bennu", from which the NASA probe "Osiris-Rex" has taken a rock sample, has surprised the research team quite a bit – even if no one has yet been able to analyze a soil sample. The researchers thought "Bennu" was a solid mass – but "Osiris-Rex" turned out that the asteroid consists of loose gravel and porous debris with low density. This would have ended the mission almost prematurely when the probe collected the material.
NASA spacecraft retrieved rock sample from asteroid "Bennu"
Update from September 24, 2023, 15:58 p.m.: Soon it will be hot, very hot for the capsule: When it enters the Earth's atmosphere with the asteroid sample at 15:42 p.m. – in less than an hour – the highest temperature is expected to be around 2760 degrees Celsius. The protective cover around the soil sample is designed to absorb this heat, it is designed to absorb and distribute the heat - even if it is completely enveloped in a fireball.
Update from September 24, 2023, 15:35 p.m.: By the way, the complicated name "Osiris-Rex" stands for "Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer". However, since the Nasa spacecraft dropped the capsule and ignited its engines, it has had a new name: "Osiris Apex". The "Apex" in the spacecraft's new name stands for "Apophis Explorer" ("Apophis" is the name of the asteroid that the spacecraft will now track and study).
There would have been a plan B for the dropping of the "Osiris-Rex" capsule
Update from September 24, 2023, 15:14 p.m.: Those involved in the "Osiris-Rex" mission got up very early today and have already had a long day: at 2 a.m. local time (10 a.m. CEST), the final commands were sent to the spacecraft, before a so-called "go/nogo" meeting took place. It was only because all the guards there gave their "go" that the drop signal was sent to "Osiris-Rex".
By the way, if the "go/nogo" meeting had been negative, there would have been a plan B. "Osiris-Rex" would then have had to carry the capsule with him through space for even longer and would not have dropped it for another two years. But the teams involved were not very enthusiastic about this idea, as the probe will approach the Sun over the next two years and this can change the rock samples.
NASA probe "Osiris-Rex" has successfully completed its mission
Update from September 24, 2023, 14:45 p.m.: It may sound paradoxical, but the moment the mission of the space probe "Osiris-Rex" becomes really exciting again, the spacecraft has already done its job and turns its attention to the next mission. "Osiris-Rex" released the capsule with the rock sample from asteroid "Bennu" punctually at 12:42 p.m. (CEST) and shortly afterwards ignited the engines to fly to the asteroid "Apophis".
This means one thing above all: Since 12:42 p.m., the capsule with the asteroid rock has been crashing into Earth in free fall. Entry into Earth's atmosphere is expected at 16:42 p.m. This live ticker keeps you up to date on the events of the important space mission.
Nasa's "Osiris Rex" mission is coming to an end
First reported on October 24, 2023: Utah – One day in the year 2182, the asteroid "Bennu" will come very close to Earth. Then there is a small chance that it will hit the earth. But the probability of this is minimal and the date is a long way off – "Bennu" is currently the focus of attention for another reason: On Sunday (24 September), NASA's Osiris-Rex spacecraft will drop a capsule with soil samples from "Bennu" over Earth.
"Osiris-Rex" has a long journey behind it: Launched in 2016, the probe took two years to reach the asteroid at all. She then circled and explored it for two years before taking a soil sample in a daring manoeuvre in October 2020. This sample is sealed in a capsule that "Osiris-Rex" will drop on Sunday during a flyby of Earth at an altitude of 102,000 kilometers.
NASA probe "Osiris-Rex" throws soil sample from asteroid "Bennu" to Earth
Four hours later, the capsule will enter the Earth's atmosphere, where it will be exposed to very high temperatures. It then takes 13 minutes to land with the help of a parachute at a test site of the US Department of Defense in the US state of Utah. Once the capsule has come down, it is collected by specialists and immediately taken by helicopter to a clean room. Subsequently, the material will be subjected to initial tests and distributed to researchers.
Seven years and seven billion kilometres will then lie behind the capsule – why does research on a soil sample take so much effort? It has to do with where the soil sample comes from: from an asteroid. These celestial bodies are considered "time capsules" from the time of the formation of the solar system, as asteroids already existed at that time. Their material was preserved by the vacuum in space and can now shed light on how the solar system and planets were formed.
What the researchers hope to gain from the asteroid soil sample
But asteroids are more than that: researchers suspect that celestial bodies were involved in making life on Earth possible. There is a suspicion that rocks from space – such as asteroids and meteorites – brought water and possibly also "building blocks of life" such as carbon to Earth. The research wants to investigate these assumptions and requires asteroid material that has not come into contact with the Earth. "Osiris-Rex" will supply this material.
However, the spacecraft will not land on Earth. It has received another mission from the US space agency Nasa and will ignite its engines to change its trajectory just a few minutes after the capsule is dropped. The new target of the spacecraft, which will then be called "Osiris Apex", is the asteroid "Apophis". It will come very close to Earth in 2029.
For a long time, researchers assumed that "Apophis" would one day collide with Earth. This danger has now been dispelled, but the asteroid is still of interest to researchers. However, "Osiris-Apex" will not be able to take soil samples from "Apophis" – after all, the return capsule will already be on Earth. (tab)