NASA is set to launch a spacecraft on September 8, 2016 to study Bennu, an asteroid that may hit Earth. According to the space agency, they would use the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to extract a sample from the asteroid, which could reveal how our solar system formed and possibly the origin of life.
OSIRIS-Rex or Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer is headed by NASA and the University of Arizona. It is expected to reach Bennu on August 2018.
OSIRIS-Rex will use its robotic arm to gather a 2.1-ounce sample of gravel and soil from the asteroid. Scientists believe that the asteroid contains rocks that were leftovers of the formation of the solar system. The spacecraft will leave the asteroid on 2021 and will come back to Earth on 2023.
“We believe Bennu is a time capsule from the very beginning of our solar system,” Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator and a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, told ABC News. “So the sample can potentially hold answers to the most fundamental questions human beings ask, like ‘Where do we come from?'”
This mission could also tell us if life actually existed on Mars or Europa. Europa is one of Jupiter’s moons, which is thought to be habitable and contains liquid water hidden under its frozen crust.
Moreover, the asteroid has a one in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth. If it does hit Earth, it would not happen in another 150 years.
As of now, we do not have the tools to prevent any asteroid impact but it is highly likely that people in year 2135 would already posses the technology to destroy Bennu. Lauretta cites the use of nukesor another space craft or gravity tractor to prevent the asteroid from hitting us.