A piece of Florence has landed on Bennu, an asteroid currently two billion kilometres from Earth.
The NASA mission OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016 and touched down on Bennu on October 20. The probe contains a piece of equipment known as an “Autonomous Star Tracker”, which was manufactured by Leonardo, a technology company based in Campi Bisenzio.
Credit: NASA – Goddard University of Arizona
The star tracker makes ten calculations per second to determine the asteroid’s orientation and any potential threat it poses to our planet. During its mission, the probe will also collect soil samples from Bennu’s surface. It is due to return to Earth in 2023.
Bennu is named after the ancient Egyptian avian god of the sun, rebirth and creation. The name of the mission was chosen accordingly: in the Egyptian pantheon, Osiris is lord of the underworld.
Leonardo celebrated its 150th birthday in 2014. From its base in Campi Bisenzio, to the west of Florence, the company develops a range of equipment for space exploration, including propulsion systems and atomic clocks.