Science Wrap: The deal with Bennu, NASA's Psyche, astronaut's return home after a year in space

Debodinna Chakraborty
Debodinna ChakrabortySep 30, 2023 | 08:00

Science Wrap: The deal with Bennu, NASA's Psyche, astronaut's return home after a year in space

This week's science news comes straight from outer space. (Photo: X/NASA, Getty)

This week’s science news has mostly come from outer space. NASA has been quite busy this week with the extraction mission to asteroid Bennu and is all set for its next trip to asteroid Psyche. 

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returned to Earth after spending a record 371 days in outer space.

Apart from news about space, a computer on Earth has found data which hints at a volcanic eruption being the real cause of the extinction of dinosaurs. 


Here are the top science news of the week, in detail. 

Extraction mission to Asteroid Bennu

Following a seven-year voyage in space, on September 24, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft finally returned to Earth after a successful mineral extraction mission on the asteroid, Bennu.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx returned to Earth with a capsule filled with samples from asteroid Bennu, a 4.5-billion-year-old carbon-rich asteroid. 

This mission marks a historic milestone, recovering the largest celestial treasure since NASA's Apollo Mission retrieved moon rocks almost 50 years ago.

What is asteroid Bennu?

Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid approximately one-third of a mile in diameter, poses a real threat of impacting our planet, potentially leading to widespread destruction and unleashing energy equivalent to roughly 22 atomic bombs, reported Earth.com.

According to experts at NASA, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu may intersect Earth's trajectory.


The OSIRIS-REx scientific team warns of a potential collision with Earth by September 2182. Bennu, the asteroid, has neared Earth thrice in 1999, 2005, and 2011, with another close approach slated for September 25, 2135. 

Next for NASA: Asteroid Psyche

Only a few days after the successful Bennu mission, NASA has announced an October-scheduled mission to the metal-rich asteroid Psyche

  • "Psyche" is a NASA mission aimed at investigating the metal-rich asteroid "16 Psyche", measuring approximately 140 miles wide (225 kilometres). 
  • The mission is set to take off at 10.34 a.m. EDT (8:04 pm IST) on October 5, and the launch window spans October 5 to 25, with daily launch opportunities.
  • The launch vehicle of choice is a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, stationed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • NASA's Psyche mission is set to become the maiden in space-mission of a metallic asteroid. This celestial body could potentially be the remnant core of a protoplanet that initiated its formation four billion years ago, in the early stages of the solar system.

Back to Earth after 371 days

American NASA astronaut Frank Rubio along with two Russian cosmonauts made a successful touchdown on Earth after being stuck in space for a total of 371 days. Rubio now holds the record for the longest US spaceflight after having to stay behind for more than a year. 

The three passengers returned to Earth in a Soyuz capsule. The capsule landed in a distant region of Kazakhstan. 

Rubio is the first US astronaut to stay in space for more than a year. (Photo: Getty)

This capsule served as a substitute after their initial spacecraft suffered damage due to  space debris, resulting in the loss of its cooling system while docked with the International Space Station.

Computer finds the real cause behind the extinction of dinosaurs

As reported by Science, researchers have found data through a computer analysis that it was actually volcanism, and not an asteroid, that led to the extinction of dinosaurs. 

The outcome of this computational analysis gave several readings that hinted that the Deccan Traps eruptions, lasting about a million years, were solely responsible for the extinction event due to massive gas bursts. 

These eruptions expelled enormous volumes of gas-laden lava over what is currently Western India.

"...the goal was to have as little human input or bias in the process as possible..."
- Dartmouth computational geologist Alexander Cox
Last updated: September 30, 2023 | 08:00
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