NASA space­craft ar­rives at an­cient as­teroid, its 1st vis­i­tor

Yuma Sun - - OPINION -

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Af­ter a two-year chase, a NASA space­craft ar­rived Mon­day at the an­cient as­teroid Bennu, its first vis­i­tor in bil­lions of years.

The ro­botic ex­plorer Osiris-Rex pulled within 12 miles of the di­a­mond­shaped space rock. It will get even closer in the days ahead and go into or­bit around Bennu on Dec. 31. No space­craft has ever or­bited such a small cos­mic body.

It is the first U.S. at­tempt to gather as­teroid sam­ples for re­turn to Earth, some­thing only Japan has ac­com­plished so far.

Flight con­trollers ap­plauded and ex­changed high-fives once con­fir­ma­tion came through that Osiris-Rex made it to Bennu — ex­actly one week af­ter NASA landed a space­craft on Mars.

“Re­lieved, proud, and anx­ious to start ex­plor­ing!” tweeted lead sci­en­tist Dante Lau­retta of the Univer­sity of Ari­zona. “To Bennu and back!”

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