Asteroid Mining Sites Found on Bennu

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Asteroid Mining For Real, This Time… And No, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck Aren’t Involved.

Out there in the black, a 1600-foot asteroid is speeding toward earth. There’s a 1/24,000 chance that it could hit Earth. That may seem like a long shot, but the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are nearly 1/300,000,000 and yet on average, somebody wins once a month. This thing is big enough to cause some serious damage, not planet-killing damage, but city-killing damage, for sure. Luckily for us, NASA’s got an asteroid mining team on it, and they have about 120 years to study the asteroid called Bennu before it gets here. 

“Enter the Risen Osiris—Risen Again!”

That’s a line from the Iron Maiden song “Powerslave,” an Egyptian themed heavy metal masterpiece that references the god Osiris. I’m a huge Maiden fan, so any chance I get to reference them, I will. Apologies.

I bring Osiris up because of NASA’s put together to land on Bennu and collect samples. The mission is called OSIRIS-REx. NASA plans to send a landing craft to Bennu that will land on the rock and bring the samples back to Earth so that they can be analyzed. 

Four Potential Asteroid Mining Sites Found

Bennu is a little different, it turns out, than scientists originally thought when they spotted the NEO a few years ago. When most of us think of an asteroid, we think of a rock with a relatively smooth and pitted surface like the ones in Star Wars—or at least I do. I’m sure the OSIRIS-REx team didn’t expect that. They did expect Bennu’s surface to be relatively smooth and sandy, though.

Instead, when the OSIRIS spacecraft began to orbit the asteroid last year, they found that it’s actually covered in some pretty big rocks. These rocks made it difficult for scientists to find potential asteroid mining sites. Engineers designed OSIRIS-REx to land in a boulder-free area with a 25-meter radius. The rocky surface of Bennu made that nearly impossible. Despite the difficulty, though, the OSIRIS-REx team re-designed their landing parameters to be able to target sites with a radius between five and ten meters. The team announced on Monday that it found four potential asteroid mining sites for the mission.

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym—just like everything with government agencies. It stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. But because the acronym references the Egyptian god Osiris, the team decided to keep the Egyptian theme going. The team named the spots Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey, and Sandpiper. All of those birds are native to Egypt. Sandpiper and Kingfisher appear to have hydrated minerals, which would mean they formed in the presence of water. Nightingale has the most fine-grained, dark material, while Osprey seems to have rock that is carbon-rich. OSIRIS-REx will explore all four sites and return home if all goes to plan. Then we can figure out how to send Bruce Willis and Steve Buscemi up there to blow the thing to smitherenies!

Buccaneer Bunny (1948)

 

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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