In the sky, diamonds are naturally cut.
The stunning diamond shape of the rocks of Ryugu and Bennu – the targets of the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx return missions – are apparently the result of a stack of columns close to the Earth's asteroid, scientists said.
"I think they are very loose aggregates, they are not solid and transient," said Melissa Morris, OSIRIS-REx deputy programmer at the NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, on Science Chat on Wednesday (November). 7). "And so, as you turn, you can actually get things out and create that almost perfect shape." [OSIRIS-REx: NASA’s Asteroid Sample-Return Mission in Pictures]
And Ryu and Bennu are probably rich in organic molecules, carbon-containing structures, as we know. Despite similar similarities, however, the two rocks are far from clones. For example, Ryugu, about 900 meters wide, is much larger than Bennu (500 m). And the former surface of the asteroid is fairly uniform in light, while Bennu's sport diversity is bright and dark spots, Morris added.
The mission of Hayabusa2, led by Japan, arrived in orbit around Ryugua at the end of June and has already left three landings on the asteroid. Two of these surface explorers, small hopping rovers MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B, remain operational today. The second aircraft, the size of the MASCOT aircraft, operated more than 17 hours on Ryuga last month – a little longer than originally planned.
The $ 150 million Hayabusa2 mission will, in the relatively near future, be deployed by another hopping lander, MINERVA-II2, if everything goes according to plan. The navy mission itself will gather to collect samples of Ryuua, which will be on Earth in a special cap for return in December 2020.
Meanwhile, OSIRIS-REX closes its goal. The $ 800 million NASA probe will arrive in Benn, on December 3, and then navigate the orbit around the space rock on December 31st. OSIRIS-REX will study the asteroid for more than two years and collect a significant pattern that will follow the Earth in September 2023. (OSIRIS-REX, however, will not implement mini-landers on the space rock.)
The main goals of Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx (which are short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Identification Resource, Security-Regolith Explorer) are well matched. Both thoughts tend to lighten the early days of the solar system and the role that is rich in carbon asteroids such as Ryu and Bennu might have played to help life go to Earth.
The missions also have auxiliary targets, as the whole OSIRIS-REX suggests. That mission should also help investigators learn about the forces that shape the potentially dangerous paths of asteroids through space and the potential of potential carbon rocks, among other contributions, NASA officials said.
The two mission teams have already worked extensively and will continue working together in the future, Morris said.
"It will be fascinating to compare and counteract these two different missions and their results," she said.
The book of Mike Walla's quest for extraterrestrial life "Out There," will be released on November 13 by Grand Central Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall, Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally released at Space.com.