Bennu twice approaches the Earth: in the years 2135 and 2182. Then it came even closer to the moon. Until the year 2300, Earth had a 99.94 percent chance of surviving an encounter with Bennu. “We now have more accurate information about the track,” Varnokia said. In recent years, the US space probe OSIRIS-REx has been investigating Bennu, a potato-shaped rock about half a kilometer in diameter.
Thanks to these observations, the numbers are now 20 times more accurate than before. All kinds of factors were taken into account in the predictions, from the effects of microgravity to Einstein’s theory of relativity. “We also calculated the distance to the ground with an accuracy of two meters, the height of the basketball player.”
NASA experts say that if it turns out later that the risk of catastrophe due to the collision increases, there is still time to take action. A hundred years from now, we will have much better technologies at our disposal, should the asteroid’s path ever need to be altered.
If Bennu hits, it will not mean the end of all life, but the devastation on Earth will be enormous. One of the speakers said: “The crater is usually 10-20 times the size of the body, so we are talking about a crater with a diameter of 5-10 kilometers. But the destruction extends a hundred times further.”
Not the only danger in space
The chance of a collision with Bennu may be slim, but this asteroid isn’t the only danger from space. There are other unknown space masses that may be on a collision course with Earth. They are more likely to hit the ground than Bennu. This is why NASA wants to better map the pieces that fly around the solar system. About sixty percent of the near-Earth relatives are now known.
The cost of the Osiris Rex mission is one billion euros. The probe was launched in 2016 and entered orbit around Bennu in 2018. The rocks were measured and photographed from all angles. This data was sent back to Earth for study. Bennu orbits the Sun, which is currently located 306 million km from Earth. We hope that the asteroid will tell scientists something about the origin of our solar system and the origin of life on Earth.
Another part of the investigation will follow. In October last year, Osiris Rex descended to the surface of Bennu sucking up about 60 grams of rock and dust in a few seconds. It is collected in a container on board the probe. A few months ago, OSIRIS-REx began its billion-mile return journey back to Earth. It is scheduled to land on Earth in September 2023, after which scientists can put the collected pellets under a microscope.
powerful art tour
Grain capture was an engineering feat. Landing on Bennu was difficult because the surface turned out to be not smooth but strewn with boulders several meters high. In the end, a large block dubbed Mount Doom had to be circumvented to the fateful peak Under the Lord of the Rings. The landing area next to Mount Doom is only a few square metres.
Incidentally, the vehicle set foot on the ground accompanied by Dutch music. Composer and vocal researcher Roland Kuit was chosen four years ago to provide a soundtrack. He made twelve tactical pieces with many mysterious squeaks and creaks. He said earlier “my music isn’t every day” one day. “That’s why it fits so well with the task.”
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