A sample of NASA’s asteroid Bennu is scheduled to land on Sunday

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A piece of an asteroid collected by NASA in space will descend to Earth in a protective capsule on Sunday at a speed equivalent to 36 times the speed of sound.

The sample, taken from an asteroid called Bennu, will land in a desolate part of the Utah desert.

Unlike humans returning to Earth from space, there is no weather call. The Bennu capsule will land regardless of the conditions. This could complicate recovery efforts.

What is NASA’s asteroid mission?

– A NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx was launched on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 8, 2016. It took more than two years to reach Bennu — an object about a third of a mile across at the equator. Floating billions of miles above Earth.

– After arriving on Bennu, OSIRIS-REx spent a year mapping the asteroid’s rocky surface to find the best place to land and collect a sample. Queen guitarist and legendary astrophysicist Brian May helped.

Scientists believe that Bennu formed when a larger asteroid collapsed about 700 million to 2 billion years ago. Generations of scientists are expected to study the material collected from Bennu as a window into the formation of the Sun and planets 4.5 billion years ago.

OSIRIS-REx is the first American mission to collect a sample from an asteroid. After the capsule carrying the sample lands, it will be whisked away by helicopter.

The role of the weather in Sunday’s rain:

– The small, refrigerator-sized Bennu capsule will deploy a parachute to slow its descent before it hits Earth. This makes wind a major concern.

– Planners also had to take rain into account. If the ground became too wet due to the late summer monsoon, the landing zone could turn into a mess of dirty mud that would make recovering the capsule more difficult.

The weather balloons will fly up to about 60,000 feet in the days before landing to capture data including temperature, humidity and wind. These measurements will help narrow down the most specific landing spot on Utah’s vast test and training range.

Weather.com’s chief meteorologist Jonathan Erdman Add:

Fortunately, the weather looks great for landing in the desert of western Utah.

– The risk of rain and thunderstorms that will continue for the rest of this week will end by the end of this week as high pressure increases.

– Right now, we’re expecting south winds of around 5 to 10 mph on Sunday, which aren’t strong enough to cause any major issues when parachuting.

More at Weather.COM

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A photo that captures the boy’s joy at seeing the spacecraft launch

Weather.com Reporter Jean Childs Covers breaking news and features on weather, space, climate change, environment and everything in between.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment, and the importance of science in our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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