SPACE – NASA is planning to launch a probe to collect rock samples from an asteroid it fears could one day hit Earth. The asteroid, named Bennu, can be seen from Earth as it crosses the planet’s orbit every six years. Bennu, which is around 500m in diameter at its equator and travels around the sun at 63,000 mph, will pass between Earth and the moon in 2135. “That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century,” Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at Arizona University, told the Sunday Times.
“It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death,” he added. Mr Lauretta, NASA’s principal investigator in charge of the Osiris-Rex probe mission to Bennu, launching in September, said the probe will map the asteroid, pick up some rock samples and then head back to Earth. He said information on the asteroid’s size, mass and composition could be “vital data for future generations.” Osiris-Rex will arrive at Bennu in 2018 and will spend a year surveying the asteroid’s chemical makeup, mineralogy and geologic history. Information gathered during the observation will help scientists understand how its course is affected by absorbing and radiating sunlight as heat. The probe will then take a sample from the asteroid before heading back to Earth for 2023.
The asteroid was discovered on September 11, 1999. Yes, 9.11.1999. Bennu was named by Michael Puzio, a third-grader from North Carolina, one of more than eight thousand students from dozens of countries around the world who entered a “Name That Asteroid!” contest run by the University of Arizona, The Planetary Society, and the LINEAR Project, according to The Planetary Report, June 2013.
According to Egyptian mythology, the Bennu was a self-created being said to have played a role in the creation of the world. It was said to be the ba of Ra and enabled the creative actions of Atum. It was said to have flown over the waters of Nun that existed before creation, landing on a rock and issuing a call that determined the nature of creation. It was also a symbol of rebirth and was therefore associated with Osiris.
Some of the titles of the Bennu bird were “He Who Came Into Being by Himself,” and “Lord of Jubilees;” the latter epithet referred to the belief that the Bennu periodically renewed itself like the sun. The Greek phoenix bird was said to have derived its mythology from the Bennu bird. Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead – after whom, the NASA space probe that will study Bennu is named. –Independent, Wikipedia