10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT NASA’S MISSION TO TASTE AN ASTEROID

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THAT CAPSULE WILL BE HURTLING TOWARD EARTH AT 27,700 MILES PER HOUR…

…which is also known as “extremely fast,” according to Lockheed Martin’s Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager. It will take seven days for that hundred-pound capsule to catch up with Earth. Once here, it will be slowed on descent by two parachutes, which should help it gently touch down in the Utah Test Range on September 24th. As you may have guessed, only the capsule is coming back: Once its primary mission ends, OSIRIS-REx will be put in a parking orbit around the sun.

IT’S NOT ENTIRELY CLEAR HOW MUCH OF BENNU THE SPACECRAFT WILL MANAGE TO SNAG.

That depends more on Bennu’s surface than on the spacecraft, but the amount collected could be anywhere between a couple of ounces and 4 pounds of material (scientists will figure out how much material is on board by spinning the spacecraft). Tests on Earth, conducted with a variety of materials, have generally collected more than 10 ounces of material, Kuhns says.

The mission team will give 4 percent of the sample to Canadian partners, 0.5 percent to the Japanese space agency, and preserve 75 percent for future investigations, says NASA’s Gordon Johnston, “for the science questions we haven’t figured out to even ask yet.

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