Explanation: Have you ever seen a rocket launched into the Solar System? Last month a large Atlas V rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 41 in Florida carrying the ORISIX-REx spacecraft. This robotic spacecraft will attempt to land on Asteroid Bennu and return some of its soil to Earth. Asteroid 101955 Bennu orbits the Sun near the Earth, spans about 500-meters, is dark because its surface is covered with carbon, and has about a 1 in 2500 chance of striking the Earth in the next few thousand years. The exciting 2.5-minute video shows the Atlas V rocket being rolled out, prepared, and launched — complete with a clip of side-boosters separating. If things go according to plan, ORISIS-REx will reach Bennu in 2018 and return samples to Earth in 2023. One science goal of OSIRIS-REx is to better determine whether ancient collisions between Earth and carbonaceous asteroids like Bennu provided Earth with a significant amount of the water and organic molecules necessary for the development of life.
Tomorrow’s picture: galaxies galore