NASA to grab a piece of an as­ter­oid, which is even harder than it sounds

StarMetro Toronto - - BIG OPINIONS - Sarah Ka­plan

For the past two years, the OSIRIS- REX space­craft has sailed across the so­lar sys­tem by the light of the stars. Like an­cient mariners and the Apollo astro­nauts, it needed the con­stancy of the con­stel­la­tions to nav­i­gate the dark un­known. All that changed Mon­day, when the NASA probe fi­nally reached its tar­get, an Em­pire State Build­ing­sized as­ter­oid called Bennu.

Now OSIRIS- REX faces a whole new kind of chal­lenge: ex­plor­ing the small­est ob­ject ever or­bited by a space­craft.

OSIRIS-REX was within 12 miles of Bennu’s sur­face — about the dis­tance be­tween the White House and NASA’S God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter, which man­ages the space­craft. Soon an im­age of the as­ter­oid ap­peared on the mis­sion con­trol screens: a di­a­mond- shaped body with a rough, speck­led ex­te­rior. OSIRIS- REX was fi­nally at the doorstep of its new home.

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