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'Nasa paid $1 billion to this man to stop an asteroid crashing into Earth'

2 months ago 69

NEW DELHI: The enthralling narrative of

Nasa

's billion-dollar

mission

to

Bennu

, aimed at preventing a potential

asteroid

collision, is meticulously chronicled in

Dante Lauretta

's book, "The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System." Lauretta, a prominent figure in the field and the principal investigator of the mission, offers a first-hand account of the high-stakes operation, delving into the intricate details and personal reflections that paint a vivid picture of this monumental endeavor, a report in Daily Mail said.

As per the Daily Mail report, the book not only explores the scientific and technical aspects of the mission but also delves into the human spirit and collective effort behind this historic achievement.
Nasa embarked on an unprecedented mission to avert potential catastrophe from asteroid Bennu, a massive celestial body with the potential to strike Earth on September 24, 2182. The asteroid, characterized by its vast size comparable to an aircraft carrier and its exceptionally dark surface, which reflects a mere fraction of sunlight compared to other asteroids, has been identified as one of the most hazardous objects in our solar system.
To confront this looming threat, in 2011, Nasa allocated a substantial sum to Dante Lauretta to lead a groundbreaking mission. "In 2011, Nasa awarded me a billion dollars to accomplish just that. The mission would come to entail not only sending a

spacecraft

to the asteroid but bringing a piece of it back to Earth,"

The mission's objective was twofold: to closely study Bennu and to retrieve a sample of its surface to Earth. This endeavor was not merely a scientific exploration but a crucial step in planetary defense, providing invaluable insights into ways to deflect potentially hazardous asteroids.
Bennu was discovered on September 11, 1999, by scientists at the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT, dedicated to monitoring celestial bodies that could pose threats from beyond our atmosphere. The asteroid's dark, carbon-rich surface indicated it might hold keys to understanding the origins of life and the formation of habitable worlds. Billions of years ago, asteroids similar to Bennu could have been carriers of vital organic compounds to Earth, sparking the development of life as we know it.

However, the allure of unlocking cosmic mysteries comes hand-in-hand with the grim reality of the asteroid's destructive potential. If Bennu were to collide with Earth, it would unleash a blast exceeding the combined force of all nuclear tests conducted throughout history, creating a crater four miles wide and setting off a chain reaction of catastrophic environmental and humanitarian crises.
In the face of such dire consequences, the OSIRIS-REx mission represented a beacon of hope and human ingenuity. The mission, a narrative of tension, anticipation, and eventual triumph, involved intricate planning and execution to ensure the spacecraft's successful touchdown on Bennu's rugged terrain. The mission's highlight was the precise operation where the spacecraft's Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) made contact with the asteroid's surface, a moment laden with anxiety and excitement.
This mission stands as a monumental achievement in the annals of space exploration, epitomizing humanity's resolve to protect our planet from extraterrestrial dangers. It also marks a significant leap in our understanding of the early solar system, offering clues that may unravel the mysteries of our cosmic neighborhood's formation and evolution.
As we await the analyzed results from the returned samples, the successful engagement with Bennu opens new avenues for research and planetary defense strategies. This historic endeavor not only underscores the potential threats lurking in our solar system but also highlights our growing capabilities to confront these challenges head-on, safeguarding the future of our planet and species.

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