NASA’s craft to return to earth carrying samples of an asteroid

NASA's craft to return to earth carrying samples of an asteroid

NASA’s craft to return to earth carrying samples of an asteroid

A time capsule containing a sample of rock and dirt as old as the Solar System will drop from outer space into the Utah desert on 24 September 2023. That is what Nasa has planned for its historic Osiris-Rex asteroid probe, which began its trek home on Monday. Its precious cargo of 60g of ancient debris from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu is the largest sample collected since the Apollo Moon missions.

After nearly five years in space, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with an abundance of rocks and dust from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. The space agency said there is no direct path back to Earth for the probe, as it must travel to where the planet will be in the future. The course will require it to orbit twice around the sun, covering 2.3 billion kilometers before it will catch up with Earth.

Nasa says this departure sequence will be its “most significant manoeuvre” since it arrived on the asteroid. The craft must change velocity by 595mph (958 km/h) in order to intersect Earth, and will eventually travel 1.4bn miles (2.3bn km) on its journey home.