I hope you did not all participate after this week has hit the InSight lander on Mars, because there is another great spacecraft event right around the corner.
NASA's OSIRIS-REX probe will officially reach the asteroid close to Earth Benn at about midnight. EST (1700 GMT) on Monday (December 3rd), ending a 27-month deep space search. NASA will mark the occasion with a special webcast event from 11:45 to 12:15. EST (1645 – 1715 GMT), which you can watch live here on Space.com, thanks to NASA TV.
The Room Agency will also broadcast the "Checkout" program at 11:15 AM EST (1615 GMT). Here you can also catch Space.com. [OSIRIS-REx: NASA’s Asteroid Sample-Return Mission in Pictures]
OSIRIS-REX mission, $ 800 million, was launched on September 8, 2016, starting at the Bennu (500 meters) lane at a distance of 1,640 meters (500 meters). Upon arrival, the probe will occupy a position about 20 miles off the cosmic rocks, NASA officials said.
OSIRIS-REX will fly to Bennu several times during the next four weeks, collecting data that will help mission team members set up the mass of the asteroid. With this information in hand, OSIRIS-REX will move into orbit around the space rock on December 31 – just hours before NASA's New Horizon Probe passes the end of the Ultima Thule facility, miles miles from Earth.
Diamond-shaped Bennu will become the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.
OSIRIS-REx will study the rock from the orbiting for the next 18 months or so and then descend to Bennu's surface to grab a significant sample of materials by mid-2020. The aircraft will leave the asteroid in March 2021, and the pattern will come to Earth in a special return capsule in September 2023.
Scientists around the world will study this material looking for clues about the role that asteroids rich in carbon such as Bennu may play in creating building blocks of life on Earth.
OSIRIS-REx – which is short for "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Identification Resource, Security-Regolith Explorer" – will also make a significant contribution in other ways, members of the mission team said. For example, probing measurements should help investigators better understand the resource potential of Benn's similar rocks. And other data will increase knowledge of how asteroids move through space, which in turn should improve prediction of dangerous rock.
Bennu is a potentially dangerous asteroid in itself; there is very little likelihood that it could hit the Earth at the end of the 22nd century.
OSIRIS-REx is not the only active mission of asteroid sampling. The Hayabusa2 aircraft in Japan is currently in orbit around Ryuga (900m), which divides Bennu's diamond shape. Hayabusa2 will take the Ryuga sample next year and return it to Earth in late 2020, if everything goes according to plan.
The Book of Mike Walla of Searching for Extraterrestrial Life "Out there"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate) is now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall, Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook, Originally published Space.com.