(CNN) — NASA is sending its two largest spacecraft – OSIRIS-REx and Ebb – into space to rendezvous with an asteroid in September 2018.
The space agency’s space agency is sending its two largest spacecraft – OSIRIS-REx and Ebb – into space to rendezvous with an asteroid in September 2018.
The mission will be NASA’s first to rendezvous with an asteroid and to collect samples that will then be returned to Earth in 2023.
This first ever mission to an asteroid, set to launch in September 2018, will also test possible defense techniques for future potential Mars missions and we could see the arrival of humans to other bodies in the solar system.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is a probe weighing in at 5,136 pounds, and it will enter orbit around the asteroid Bennu on September 8, 2018.
The OSIRIS-REx probe will begin its impact on the asteroid Bennu and will fire one half of its 18-foot-wide high-energy laser into its surface to make it submillimeter sensitive. A goal is to look for traces of organic molecules and amino acids in the asteroid’s surface dust.
This is the first time that an asteroid has been visited directly, or will be in the future, by a probe.
According to NASA, an impact test with Bennu will help measure the power of the spacecraft’s impact.
The second spacecraft, the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), is the target of OSIRIS-REx. This craft, weighing 4,096 pounds, will hit Bennu at a speed of about 20,000 mph and test one of the most powerful laser systems ever built.
NASA’s Ebb, at 2,990 pounds, is the first ever craft to investigate two asteroids simultaneously.
NASA says this craft will help develop techniques to deflect or deflect dangerous asteroids, or mining equipment to unlock the asteroids’ mineral riches.
Each asteroid targets will be aboard a cryogenic orbit of Pluto.
The Earth-bound spacecraft will be completed in September 2023.
The asteroid targeted for impact is the remnant of a massive asteroid that hit the Earth 65 million years ago. In 2013, NASA discovered the fragments there were relatively small asteroids that are not likely to pose a threat to Earth.