NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is about to snatch pieces of an asteroid

In just a few hours, the world will know whether NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully reached out and touched Bennu, a tiny, top-shaped asteroid that’s been spinning through the solar system for a billion years. During the maneuver, the spacecraft will swoop down, scoop up a bit of material, and depart seconds later with precious cargo: rocks and dust dating back to the solar system’s birth.

The mission is humankind’s third attempt—and NASA’s first—to sample the surface of an asteroid. The first two asteroid sampling missions, performed by Japan’s Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 spacecraft, picked up only small amounts of fine-grained material. By contrast, OSIRIS-REx is designed to pick up as much as 4.4 pounds of material that ranges in size from tiny grains to two-centimeter-wide pebbles.

Assuming all goes well, a radio dish in Spain will receive the signal that OSIRIS-REx completed its task at 6:12 p.m. ET on October 20.

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2 large pieces of space junk nearly collided in ‘high risk’ situation

Two pieces of space junk, each about the weight of a compact car, had a close encounter on October 15 some 620 miles above Earth. If they had collided—experts put the odds at about 5 or 10 percent before closest approach—the smashup would have created a cloud of debris that would jeopardize other satellites and spacecraft for decades.

The two objects are a defunct Russian navigation satellite launched in 1989 and a spent Chinese rocket part from a 2009 launch. Calculations by LeoLabs, a California-based company that tracks objects in low-Earth orbit, pegged the moment of closest approach at 8:56 p.m. ET on October 15 above the southern Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Antarctica. About an hour after the moment of closest approach, LeoLabs confirmed that there was “no indication of collision,” after the two objects passed over the company’s New Zealand tracking station.

The pass was another

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Two Massive Pieces Of Space Junk At ‘Very High Risk’ Of Colliding Thursday Evening

UPDATE: On Wednesday, updated data from LeoLabs predicts the two objects will come within just 12 meters of each other, twice as close as previously estimated.

A defunct Russian satellite and a spent Chinese rocket just floating around high over Earth could smash into each other within a few days, potentially creating a big mess in orbit with potentially dire long-term consequences.

LeoLabs, which tracks space debris, put out the alert on Tuesday warning that the two large hunks of junk will come within 25 meters of each other and have up to a twenty percent chance of colliding Thursday evening.

That’s considered way too close for comfort by space standards. The two objects have a combined mass of 2,800 kilograms and if they were to smash into each other, the “conjunction” could create thousands of new pieces of space

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Pieces of orbiting space junk ‘avoid collision’

Artwork image of space debris
There is growing concern about the potential for more collisions in space (Artwork image)

Two items of space junk expected to pass close to one another have avoided collision, said a company which uses radar to track objects in orbit.

LeoLabs had said a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket segment were likely to come within 25m of each other.

It said there were no signs of debris over Antarctica on Friday morning.

Other experts thought Kosmos-2004 and the ChangZheng rocket stage would pass with a far greater separation.

With the objects having a combined mass of more than 2.5 tonnes and relative velocity of 14.66km/s (32,800mph), any collision would have been catastrophic and produced a shower of debris.

And given the altitude of almost 1,000km, the resulting fragments would have stayed around for an extremely long time, posing a threat to operational satellites.

LeoLabs, a Silicon Valley

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