Asteroid Bennu, a 500-meter wide space rock is an alleged doomsday asteroid that may hit the earth in the 22nd century. In order to explore this space rock, NASA, the United States space agency has sent the OSIRIS REx mission, and as per the latest updates, the spacecraft will land on the asteroid to carry samples back to the earth.
Potential landing sites on asteroid Bennu
NASA has named four landing sites, Sandpiper, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Nightingale on Bennu asteroid. After selecting these landing sites, NASA revealed that "these areas pose the fewest hazards to the spacecraft's safety while still providing the opportunity for great samples to be gathered."
Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson stated that these areas have the greatest amount of fine-grained materials so that the spacecraft can collect materials easily, without inflicting self-damage.
"After thoroughly evaluating all four candidate sites, we made our final decision based on which site has the greatest amount of fine-grained material and how easily the spacecraft can access that material while keeping the spacecraft safe. Of the four candidates, site Nightingale best meets these criteria and, ultimately, best ensures mission success," said Lauretta in a recent statement.
It should be noted that the Nightingale site is located in the northern part of the space rock, and it is comparatively colder than the remaining regions. However, NASA should take the utmost care while landing on the Nightingale crater, as there is a giant boulder lurking at the crater's edge.
Asteroid Bennu is active
A few days back, the OSIRIS REx mission has found that asteroid Bennu is very much active with observable events happening on the space rock's surface. NASA made this conclusion after observing particle plumes ejecting off the surface of Bennu.
In the meantime, Kirsten Howley, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had recently suggested that learning the trajectory of asteroid Bennu is very much necessary to combat a possible catastrophe that may happen in the future. Livermore also added that more information regarding asteroid Bennu's orbit should be obtained to understand the possibilities of a potential catastrophe.