After a remarkable seven-year voyage spanning nearly 4 billion miles in space, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to make its triumphant return to Earth on Sunday. OSIRIS-REx, an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, was launched in 2016 on a groundbreaking mission to collect material from an asteroid in space.
The capsule, holding a precious cargo of nearly 9 ounces of rocks, dust, and dirt gathered from the asteroid Bennu, will detach from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft before making an anticipated landing inside the Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range. According to reports from Fox News, teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the vehicle’s builder, will eagerly await its arrival.
Describing the precision required for this endeavor, OSIRIS-REx Deputy Project Manager Michael Moreau likened it to a challenging game of accuracy, stating, “It’s like putting a dart board at one end of a basketball court and throwing the dart from the other end and getting a bull’s-eye.”
This years-long mission holds significant scientific importance. It will aid researchers in investigating the formation of planets, shed light on the origins of life, and enhance NASA’s understanding of asteroids that could pose potential threats to Earth.
Furthermore, the collected sample is expected to offer “generations of scientists a window into the time when the Sun and planets were forming about 4.5 billion years ago,” according to NASA.
Moreover, the mission could contribute crucial information to Earth’s defense against a potential collision with Bennu, an asteroid roughly the size of the Empire State Building. NASA estimates a 1-in-2,700 chance of Bennu impacting Earth in the latter half of the 2100s.
The journey leading up to this momentous return has been a long and meticulous one. OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in 2018 and spent two years closely orbiting the asteroid, gathering vital data.
In 2020, the spacecraft made history with a successful landing on Bennu’s surface, collecting a “touch and go” sample in under a minute. Despite an initial setback due to a jammed door that led to the loss of some space dust, the sample collected still surpasses the mission’s requirement of two ounces.
Once the capsule safely touches down in the Utah desert, a dedicated NASA team will transport the precious material to a meticulously clean environment. Subsequently, the Bennu samples will find their way to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Approximately 70% of the asteroid material will be preserved for future research endeavors, allowing scientists worldwide to delve into its mysteries. Additionally, a portion of the sample will be shared with the Japanese Space Exploration Agency as part of an exchange for samples collected by Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft.
Looking ahead, OSIRIS-REx is set to continue its mission by studying another asteroid named Apophis, named after a demon serpent in ancient Egyptian mythology, symbolizing evil and chaos. This ambitious mission marks another chapter in humanity’s ongoing exploration of our solar system and beyond.
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Historic House Vote Expels Rep. George Santos Amidst Scandal
In a turn of events, the House of Representatives made history on Friday with a vote to expel Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), marking the first such expulsion in over two decades. A moment fraught with gravity unfolded as Speaker Mike Johnson wielded his gavel to formalize Santos’ removal, setting a precedent in congressional annals.
Santos, indicted on 23 counts related to wire fraud, identity theft, and other charges, has not faced conviction but stands accused of misusing campaign funds for opulent purchases. The bipartisan vote, tallying 311 to 114, signaled robust support for expulsion, with a marginally higher number of Republicans opting to retain Santos.
Questions loomed as Speaker Johnson left the chamber, his silence leaving the fate of the ongoing government spending battle uncertain. According to reports from Fox News, Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer emphasized the non-partisan nature of the decision, asserting that members concluded Santos had tarnished the House’s reputation and was unfit for representation.
Within the GOP, conflicting opinions emerged, with Rep. Darrell Issa arguing against expulsion, citing the presumption of innocence. The tight-lipped stance of the House Ethics Committee played a pivotal role in the deliberations.
Conversely, members of the New York Republican delegation, led by Rep. Marc Molinaro, asserted Santos’ commission of crimes, justifying expulsion based on a comprehensive investigation.
Santos himself predicted the outcome in an exclusive morning interview on “FOX & Friends.” This vote not only underlines the House’s rare use of expulsion powers but also sets a critical precedent in handling members facing severe legal challenges.
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