The US probe, “Oasis-Rex”, finally left the orbit of the asteroid “Benno”, from which it collected samples of dust last year, to begin its journey back to Earth.
The probe’s return journey is long, as it will not land in the Utah desert in the United States until September 24, 2023.
“The probe is now moving at a speed of more than 950 kilometers per hour from Benno on its way back to Earth,” mission chief Dante Loretta said, during a NASA video broadcast of the event.
The vehicle’s propellers were operated for 7 minutes, with the aim of giving the probe the propulsion needed to put it on the right track.
The “Oasis-Rex” carries 60 grams of grains of asteroid dust, which is the largest sample collected by “NASA” since the lunar rocks that were carried to Earth by the “Apollo” flights.
The probe reached this amount thanks to a high-risk operation carried out by the US Space Agency in October 2020, during which the probe touched the asteroid soil for a few seconds and caught the dust caused by the storming of Dante Loretta.
The entire process almost failed when it became apparent to the US Agency after days that the door of the room for storing samples was no longer locked, which led to some of them being blown into space.
But the probe eventually succeeded in storing samples in a safe way, as its arm took the load to a capsule in the middle, whose lid could be closed tightly.
After two and a half years, this capsule will be launched a few hours before it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, and its speed will be slowed by the parachute system in order to be able to land.
The agency stated that the samples will then be transferred to its Johnson Space Center in Houston, but 75% of them will be preserved without prejudice to “for future generations to study them with technologies not yet available.”
The researchers hope the samples will help provide a better understanding of the origins of the solar system and the evolution of Earth as a livable planet.