NASA has explained that one of the asteroids left over from the formation of the solar system isn't what it appears to be.
Asteroid Bennu is a relic from the formation of the solar system, and is expected to hold many clues about the history of the solar system, ancient life, and more. With the aforementioned goals in mind, NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect a sample from the asteroid, and it was successfully acquired in October 2020 when it briefly landed on the asteroid's surface.
NASA explains that it didn't expect Bennu's surface to be so loosely packed, and according to a recent blog post on NASA's website, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft would have sunk into Bennu if the spacecraft didn't fire its thrusters immediately after it collected the sample. According to Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, "our expectations about the asteroid's surface were completely wrong". The space agency says a good way to think about what it would be like to walk on the surface of Bennu is to imagine walking in a plastic ball pit.
"If Bennu was completely packed, that would imply nearly solid rock, but we found a lot of void space in the surface," said Kevin Walsh, a member of the OSIRIS-REx science team.
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