NASA’s Bold Move
In a daring mission to protect Earth from potential catastrophe, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to deliver asteroid samples, collected from the menacing asteroid Bennu, on September 24, 2182. This endeavor marks a crucial step in humanity’s efforts to safeguard the planet from space threats.
A Cosmic Threat Looms
On that same date, Bennu, a colossal asteroid the size of the Empire State Building, will pass near Earth, posing a potential danger with the force of 22 atom bombs. While the odds of a catastrophic impact are low—1 in 2,700—the severity of the consequences warrants preparedness.
Seven Years of Preparation
To mitigate this risk, NASA initiated the OSIRIS-REx mission seven years ago, sending a spacecraft to Bennu for the purpose of collecting samples. This proactive approach mirrors the plot of the famous movie “Armageddon,” where humanity attempts to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.
Samples from Space
The samples, contained in a refrigerator-sized capsule, will be dispatched to Earth when the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reaches a distance of 63,000 miles from our planet. These precious cargo items comprise approximately 8.8 ounces or 250 grams of rocky material gathered from Bennu’s surface in 2020.
First of Its Kind
Notably, while Japan’s Hayabusa mission has previously brought back asteroid samples, this marks NASA’s debut asteroid sample return and the largest amount ever collected in space.
Assessing the Threat
Although Bennu’s size is not sufficient to trigger a global extinction event—unlike the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs—it could still cause widespread destruction by creating a six-mile-wide crater and affecting a 600-mile radius.
Space Agency Vigilance
NASA’s commitment to addressing space threats was further demonstrated last year when it successfully conducted its first asteroid deflection test, altering the orbit of the small moonlet Dimorphos.
As the OSIRIS-REx mission reaches its climactic moment, the scientific community and the world await the safe delivery of these asteroid samples, a crucial step toward defending Earth from potential cosmic disasters.