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Monday, March 4, 2024

Nasa probe Osiris-Rex ‘kisses’ asteroid Bennu in historic mission

An artist’s rendition of Osiris-Rex approaching the asteroid Bennu.

WASHINGTON: After a four-year journey, Nasa’s robotic spacecraft Osiris-Rex briefly touched down on asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface on Tuesday to collect rock and dust samples in a precision operation 330 million kilometres from Earth.

The so-called “Touch-And-Go” or TAG maneuver was managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where at 6.12pm (5.12am Wednesday in Bangkok) an announcer said: “Touchdown declared. Sampling is in progress,” and scientists erupted in celebration.

The historic mission was 12 years in the making and rested on a critical 16 second period where the spacecraft performed a delicate autonomous maneuver to grab its payload: at least 60 grams (two ounces), or a candy-bar sized amount of surface…

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