OSIRIS-REx Reveals Secrets of Bennu — The Doomed Asteroid

The spacecraft OSIRIS-REx has reveled a wealth of new information about Bennu, a large, ancient asteroid. On March 19th, researchers released a wide range of scientific papers, providing a new look at this diamond-shaped body. New data shows Bennu is covered in massive boulders, which could hinder the spacecraft from gathering materials from the surface. Researchers have also spotted evidence water once existed on the body from which Bennu broke free. Gravity on the asteroid was also found to act in a strange manner, causing anything just outside its equator to be pulled toward the center of the asteroid, and shot into space.

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Is China Leading the Exploration of Space?

The Chinese space program recently landed a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, and has begun growing plants there. Neither of these feats have ever been accomplished by any other nation. Bolstered by their success, the Chinese space agency has announced plans to return sample materials from the Moon and Mars, and to construct a base on the Moon, to be constructed with a 3D printer. These missions have some people asking if China is now leading the way in space exploration, surpassing the United States and Russia. The U.S. has not sent an astronaut past low-Earth orbit since 1972.

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OSIRIS-REx Arrives at the Asteroid Bennu – Tucson and the World Celebrates

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Bennu on December 3rd. This mission will return samples from this body to the Earth for study by researchers. Bennu was discovered in 1999, and this carbon-rich asteroid is believed to be older than the solar system. Researchers hope the mission will help teach us more about the ancient solar system and the formation of life on Earth. The sample material is scheduled to land in the desert of Utah in the year 2023. This is the first U.S. mission to land on an asteroid.

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JAXA Lands Two Hopping Rovers on Asteroid – See the First Picture

The Japanese space agency JAXA has landed two small hopping rovers on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. These rovers are each seven inches in diameter, and will explore the asteroid by hopping around its surface. Each 50-foot hop will take 15 minutes to complete, due to the extremely weak gravity on the body. These will be followed by two other landers, and the orbiter itself will collect samples of Ryugu to return to Earth in 2020.

Read More JAXA Lands Two Hopping Rovers on Asteroid – See the First Picture