The US house probe OSIRIS-REx on Monday left the orbit of the asteroid Bennu, from which it collected mud samples final yr, to start its lengthy journey again to Earth.
The probe nonetheless has an enormous distance to cowl earlier than it lands within the Utah desert on September 24, 2023.
OSIRIS-REx is “now transferring away over 600 miles an hour from Bennu, on its manner residence,” Dante Lauretta, head of the mission, stated on NASA’s video broadcast of the occasion.
The spacecraft’s thrusters had been engaged with out incident for seven minutes to place the probe on the proper trajectory residence, a journey of 1.4 billion miles (2.3 billion kiometres).
It’s carrying greater than 60 grams of mud and fragments from the asteroid, the most important pattern collected by NASA because the Moon rocks introduced again by the Apollo missions.
To realize this aim, the US house company launched a high-risk operation in October 2020: the probe got here into contact with the asteroid for a couple of seconds, and a blast of compressed nitrogen was emitted to boost the mud pattern which was then captured.
The shock for NASA was the probe’s arm sank a number of centimetres