White House, NASA Discuss Asteroid Redirect Mission. Officials from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and NASA held a live Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) discussion at the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. During the event on Wednesday, Sept. 14, OSTP’s Dr. John P. Holdren, NASA’s Administrator Charles Bolden and ARM Program Director Dr. Michele Gates, highlighted the mission’s scientific and technological benefits, how the mission will support NASA’s goal of sending humans to Mars , and how ARM will demonstrate technology relevant to defending Earth from potentially hazardous asteroids.
Asteroids are bodies of rock which can measure anything up to 600 miles across and which orbit the sun. Fewer than 10,000 of the asteroids which could one day pose a threat to the Earth have so far been identified.
NASA will launch a probe into the skies later today, in a ground-breaking mission to bring back a sample from an asteroid – a first for the American space agency.
The probe, called Osiris-Rex – short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorers – will lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral at 19:05 EDT (around midnight UK time) this evening.
Built by aerospace firm Lockheed Martin, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft will be guided towards a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu.
The probe will take around two years to reach Bennu, and will spend 505 days mapping it. It will then attempt to scoop up a sample of asteroid dust to bring back to Earth.
Other space agencies have completed such missions, such as JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Hayabusa, which was the first to successfully return a sample to Earth in 2010.
The space agency is sending a probe to collect rock samples from the asteroid dubbed ‘Bennu’.
Bennu can be seen every six years from Earth – but it is expected to pass between us and the Moon.
That could tweak its orbit and set it on a direct course for our planet.
Experts fear that such a change will result in mass destruction, with Nasa investigator Dante Lauretta warning: “It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death.”
The professor of planetary science is leading the mission to collect rock samples from the asteroid, which he says could provide “vital data for future generations”.
The Osiris-Rex probe will arrive in 2018 then spend a year surveying Bennu, which orbits the sun at 63,000mph.
Scientists are hoping that information gathered on the trip will help them to work out how the asteroid’s course is affected by absorbing and radiating sunlight.
Bennu is approximately 500m in diameter, and asteroids of this size would create craters 7 km across and the equivalent of a magnitude 7 earthquake.
In turn that would cause significant damage across an area of 500km, according to Michael Busch, Planetary Astronomer at the SETI Institute.
By comparison, the fictitious asteroid in the Bruce Willis film Armageddon was 600 MILES wide.
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