NASA's on a mission to collect space dirt from a potentially killer asteroid
There's an asteroid hurtling towards Earth, and there's a chance it could hit our planet and destroy everything we hold dear.
Do you, A, send a ragtag team of misfits to blow the thing up in space?
Or B, send an asteroid sample return mission on a seven year expedition to collect space [UNKNOWN] particles, all in the name of scientific research?
This is NASA, so they're doing the science thing.
I'm Claire Riley.
Welcome to Watch This Space.
From the C Net studios in Sydney, this is your weekly guide to everything on Earth you need to know about space.
And tonight, OSIRIS-REx, NASA's seven year mission to play tag with an asteroid, for five seconds.
The origins, spectral interpretation, resource identification, security, regolith explorer, yak's NASA, is at to answer questions at a plague mankind for ages.
Where do we come from, and what is our destiny.
Man, this is gonna be one smart asteroid.
OSIRIS-REx is NASA's mission to learn about the origins of our solar system by picking up close on an asteroid or as NASA calls them, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process.
Hold on, hold on.
This is a mission to dig out leftovers?
We literally just landed inside on Mars and the park of solar probe is about to touch the sun And we're rooting around in the old casserole pots of the solar system.
I mean, NASA even calls this asteroid a non-planet.
It's kind of like, she doesn't even go here, am I right?
Well, no, this mission is actually kind of a big deal.
Our solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago when a giant cloud of gas and dust collapsed in on itself.
Imagine it like a big cake mix.
The bulk of this cosmic batter goes into making the big fancy cake, the sun.
Then the universe realized it still has a bit of mixture left over and remembered that delightful muffin tin it got from aunt Glenda last Christmas.
And so it divvied that up into making the planets.
The stuff that was left over, the raisins, if you will, because no one should ever put raisins in a cake Those are the asteroids.
Just like the raisins in the back of your kitchen cupboard, those asteroids have remained fairly unchanged for 4.5 billion years.
So they could tell us a great deal about the origins of the solar system and, also like the raisins in your cupboard, the asteroid [UNKNOWN] is focusing on could contain the precursors to the origin of life.
Seriously I need to clean out my kitchen cupboard.
So where is Osiris heading?
Well, after blasting off in September 2016, rexy you're so sexy is heading to a little carbonaceous asteroid about the size of the Empire State Building known as 101955 Bennu.
It's a totally normal, nothing to see here asteroid.
> What's that?
The Armageddon thing?
Yeah, we should probably mention that.
On an unrelated note it's time for this week's segment of "Will it kill me?".
[UNKNOWN] is hurdling towards Earth and is 100% definitely gonna totally kill us all [LAUGH].
According to the Near-Earth Object Studies Bennu is high up on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale.
That's basically the hot or not rankings of how likely we are to get completely obliterated by objects flying towards us from space.
Bennu is ranked at number two.
Probably just after that car that Elon Musk shot in the sky.
It's probability of hitting earth is about 1 in 2,700 right now.
So it's fairly low on the galactic death scale, but on the plus side you still have a bit of time to prepare.
It's not going to hit earth until 2175, if it does, according to NASA.
I mean I don't know why they called it Osiris Rex naming it after the Egyptian God of the Afterlife, if the asteroid wasn't gonna kill us all.
Anyway, Osiris Rex arrived at Benu on 12/3/2018.
According to NASA it's going to spend almost a year surveying the asteroid to find the most scientifically interesting spot to collect its sample.
But it will only make brief contact, a fist bump, if you will, to collect surface samples in the hope that they will tell us more about the origins of Earth and the history of our solar system.
Because just like your parents were into Jethro Tull and fondue before you were even born, the solar system had a life before we came along.
But because this is NASA we're talking about, they're not sending a space craft 1.2 billion miles just to collect a bunch of space dirt and shovel it into a lunch box.
First of all, they don't call it space dirt, they call it [UNKNOWN] fancy.
And the [UNKNOWN] Is going to collect this [UNKNOWN] by playing tag.
Looks kinda like a real game of tag except slower and in space.
The spacecraft will get up nice and close to [UNKNOWN] and reach out with its touch and go sample acquisition mechanism or TAG SAM.
TAG SAM, [UNKNOWN], it's like those hipsters at your coffee place had twins and gave them the worst possible names This arm will press down to the surface of the asteroid for about five seconds lowering nitrogen gas to rustle up some dust and pebbles which will be collected and stored in OSIRIS-REx for the journey home.
The OSIRIS-REx has three chances to collect between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of regolith.
That's between two ounces and four and a half pounds to return to earth.
After that, NASA's team of scientists will be able to study this space [UNKNOWN] for clues about what was happening in space 4.5 billion years ago.
[UNKNOWN] lots of secrets to share after all this mission is all about dishing the dirt on the origins of the solar system All right.
That's it for this week's edition of Watch This Space.
If you have enjoyed our broadcast then be sure to click the lick button on your remote and subscribe to get more space news as it happens.
I'm Claire Reilly for CNET.
Goodnight and God speed.
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