NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, which was launched on September 8, completed the final test on Monday night, launching it to crash on a near-Earth asteroid.
The Sentinel spacecraft already launched in 2016 will circle the asteroid and study its composition before it uses its gravitational pull to impact the rock.
Also known as Bennu, the space rock is about 1,640 feet across. It circles Earth more than 100 times each year and scientists estimate that it will be hit by Earth once in the next 1,000,000 years. At that point, NASA expects the spacecraft to crash into the rock, snapping a new portrait of the full composition.
The mission is not a “human landing” but rather a test to use the spacecraft’s capabilities in the future for safe robotic exploration, according to the Washington Post.
The Keck Institute for Space Studies in Hawaii announced its surprise at the Rosetta spacecraft crashing onto a comet in 2014.
“If the government took the long view and set goals as a leap forward … and if we spent some (extra) effort to understand our challenges, over time we’d actually build a case for an asteroid deflection mission,” David Grinspoon, of the Planetary Science Institute, told National Geographic at the time.
Check out the video below for more.
Read the full story at the Washington Post and the National Geographic.
NASA tries to save Earth from asteroids in first ever mission
NASA’s most advanced spacecraft, Alvin, is heading to an asteroid