Osiris-Rex should reach the small, roundish asteroid next year and, in 2020, collect some of its gravel for return to Earth
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. On Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, the probe will use Earth's gravity to put it on a path toward Bennu. (Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA via AP), photo: Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA via AP
22 of September 2017 13:29:15
CAPE CANAVERAL – NASA's asteroid-chasing spacecraft is swinging by Earth on Friday on its way to a space rock.Launched a year ago, Osiris-Rex was on track to pass within about 11,000 miles (17,700 kilometers) of the home planet Friday afternoon — above Antarctica. It needs Earth's gravity as a slingshot to put it on a path toward the asteroid Bennu.Osiris-Rex should reach the small, roundish asteroid next year and, in 2020, collect some of its gravel for return to Earth. If all goes well, scientists should get the samples in 2023.Friday's flyby is a quick hello: The spacecraft will zoom by at about 19,000 mph (31,000 kph). NASA has taken precautions to ensure Osiris-Rex — about the size of an SUV — does not slam into any satellites."Everything looks great! Thanks for the well wishes," the University of Arizona's Dante Lauretta, chief scientist for Osiris-Rex, said late Thursday via Twitter.