Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Nasa successfully returned a chunk of an extremely dangerous yet historically important asteroid on Sunday marking a historic achievement with a significant contribution from a "rock star scientist".
The iconic Queen guitarist, Brian May has once again demonstrated his impressive skills, this time not with his musical talents but with his -out-of-this-world skills in astrophysics.
May is an accomplished astrophysicist who has worked with Nasa on previous projects including the New Horizons Pluto mission in 2019 and played a key role in helping bring Nasa's first-ever asteroid sample to Earth.
He shared that he was "immensely proud" to be part of the team that collected the sample from the Bennu asteroid, CNN reported.
“Hello, Nasa folks, space fans, asteroid aficionados. This is Brian May of Queen as you know probably, but also immensely proud to be a team member of OSIRIS-REx,” the 76-year-old musician said in a clip aired on Nasa TV on Sunday.
But why was May's role crucial to Nasa's mission?
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in 2016 to collect samples from the 4.5 billion-year-old near-Earth asteroid Bennu, returned to Earth, specifically Utah, seven years after its mission.
May was a key player in the project, using the data from the spacecraft to produce stereoscopic images that helped the team and mission leader Dante Lauretta choose a secure location to land and collect a sample.
According to TechTarget, stereoscopic imaging is a technique used to enable a three-dimensional effect, adding an illusion of depth to a flat image.
In the clip, May apologised for not being with the team on the momentous occasion.
“I’m rehearsing for a Queen tour but my heart stays with you as this precious sample is recovered,” he explained. “Happy sample return day, and congratulations to all who work so incredibly hard on this mission, especially my dear friend Dante.”
“God bless you all,” he added.
The solar system exploration mission OSIRIS-REx is still going strong and the spacecraft has already taken off to take a close look at another asteroid called Apophis.
This time, the spacecraft continues its journey with a new mission named OSIRIS-APEX, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-APophis EXplorer.