Space

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to start chasing elusive “Trojan” asteroids

NASA fires first Trajectory Correction Maneuver thrusters on Journey to Asteroid Bennu

NASA’s “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer” or OSIRIS-Rex is gearing up to commence the hunt for mysterious “Trojan” asteroids which are constantly orbiting  the Earth. Launched on 8th September 2016, the aim of the mission is to detect the elusive “Trojan” asteroids by activating its onboard camera suite. The mission will be starting from 9th February 2017. NASA, from 9th Feb, will initiate the mission of hunting Trajan asteroids through the employment of the OSIRIS-Rex. The spacecraft will employ its MapCam images to systematically scrutinise the space where Earth Trojans are believed to be present.

To recall, Trojans are the elusive asteroids that are constant buddies to the planets orbiting in our solar system. The asteroids remain close to a regular point 60 degrees in the front or rear part of the planet. In our planetary system, there are six planets which are called Trojan asteroids, and they are Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Venus, Uranus, and Earth. Till now, scientists have discovered only one Earth Trojan asteroid called – ‘2010 TK7’. As the asteroids keep on moving or orbiting in a similar circle, they will never crash into their subordinate planets.

As per the previous research reports of NASA, more than 6,000 recognised Trojans are there which are co-orbiting the Sun with the giant planet Jupiter. OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first asteroid studying mission which is ultimately aimed at returning a sample of an asteroid to Earth for further research. OSIRIS-REx will orbit to a next-to-Earth asteroid named as ‘Bennu’ and will transmit a small taster to Earth for examination.

The sample returned by the OSIRIS-REx is supposed to allow astronomer to explore more about the configuration and progression of the Solar System, as well as finding more details about the primary stages of planet construction, and the foundation of organic compounds that triggered life on Earth. If everything goes well, then OSIRIS-REx will be the first US-powered spaceship to send off space samples from an asteroid.

On this matter, the Chief Investigator of OSIRIS-Rex, Lauretta said, “OSIRIS-Rex will take an ideal position in the mid of February to undertake the detailed survey on Earth’s Trojan Asteroids. OSIRIS-Rex will only give us the opportunity to find out new asteroid categories, but also will enable us to take part in critical operations ahead of our entrance at Bennu, which eventually will trim down the risks associated with the mission”.

As per the expectations of NASA’s astronomers, Earth must have a number of more Trojans who are sharing the orbit of Earth for Sun. But because of their appearance near to the Sun from Earth’s viewpoint, it is quite difficult to detect these elusive asteroids.

Starting from 9th February, the mission will go on for 12 days, and during these days, the OSIRIS-REx will employ the spaceship’s MapCam imager to scan Earth’s Trojan asteroids in the areas where they are expected to exist.

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