Osiris-Rex to Miss Planet Earth by 11,000 Miles

One year since it was launched, Osiris-Rex is speeding towards planet earth. The spacecraft has been orbiting around the sun. NASA said that the spacecraft would be 11,000 miles away from earth. At the same time, Osiris-Rex is said to be travelling at 19,000 miles per hour. However, it will not be visible from all parts of the globe. Only Antarctica and Australia will see the spacecraft pass. NASA has also said that the miss on the earth is a deliberate move. The spacecraft had to rely on the earth’s gravity to fling upward by six degrees. This is the angle that is required to tilt the spacecraft to the orbit of the asteroid it’s supposed to study. For starters, Osiris-Rex is on a mission to Bennu which is an asteroid near the earth. Osiris team leader Michael Moreau said that they are basically stealing a small portion of the earth’s momentum to drive the spacecraft to its desired orbit. The Osiris-Rex navigation team is currently based at Goddard Space Flight Center that is located in Greenbelt, Maryland. However, the NASA team said that the tilt of the earth with also change slightly. The small change makes it not even worth calculating. This is according to Michael Moreau.

Osiris-Rex is a short form for Origins, spectral interpretation, resource, identification and security, regolith explorer that began its journey about one year ago. It’s supposed to arrive at the asteroid in 2018 at a time like this. It had been expected to come back this week for the flyby before it can tilt to the desired angle. The asteroid it’s supposed to study is said to cross the earth’s orbit from time to time. Scientists say that there is a possibility the asteroid could hit the earth between 2196 and 2175. However, there is a 1-in -2,700 chance in this. On the other hand, Bennu is described as a 500 yards asteroid that is dark in color. The asteroid is also 4.5 billion years old and is made up of carbon-rich molecules. These carbon molecules are attributed to the life on earth. After collecting a sample of the molecules that make the asteroid, Osiris-Rex will return to earth for further analysis in 2023. Scientists use a flyby for two reasons. First, it’s to steer the spacecraft as it navigates the solar system. Secondly, a flyby ensures that the spacecraft doesn’t veer off course slamming into our planet.

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Dil Bole Oberoi