NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will return to Earth in 2023 with a sample of at least 60-grams from an asteroid named Bennu, and it has just made the first close-up observations. It discovered that it is ejecting particles from its surface and is much more rugged than expected. The material returned will allow scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, its initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds that led to the formation of life on Earth. “The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career. And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Read more for another video and additional information.
“The OSIRIS-REx team initially spotted the particle plumes in images while the spacecraft was orbiting Bennu at a distance of about one mile (1.61 kilometers). Following a safety assessment, the mission team concluded the particles did not pose a risk to the spacecraft. The team continues to analyze the particle plumes and their possible causes,” reports Phys.org.