How asteroid Bennu caught NASA’s OSIRIS-REx by surprise and nearly killed it along the way

By | September 18, 2023

When the OSIRIS-REx probe arrived at the asteroid Bennu, it found a body that looked and behaved very differently than scientists expected.

When NASA began planning its first mission to capture a asteroid sample, the space rock science community was abuzz with excitement over another asteroid mission: Japan’s Hayabusa. In 2010, for the first time in history, that mission was accomplished triumphantly Earth a fragment of an asteroid, a space rock called Itokawa. A few years earlier, Hayabusa had mapped the entirety of Itokawa, revealing a boulder-strewn landscape but also characterized by smooth beach-like plains, or ponds, of gravel and sand.

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