Canadian Space Agency to map asteroid that could destroy earth

Canadian scientists will create a 3D map of an asteroid, dubbed Bennu, which could hold clues to the beginning of life on earth and the early days of the solar system.

Time-capsule asteroid might hold clues to how life began

NASA`s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft which will fly to Bennu. The spacecraft will launch in September 2016. (Lockheed Martin Corporation)

The Canadian Space Agency has provided NASA with a laser mapping system that will scan an asteroid that could potentially hit the Earth in about 200 years.

"This is the first time that Canada is participating in a mission to bring a sample from an asteroid," said Stephane Desjardins, a spokesman for the project.

"It's probably the biggest threat to earth," according to Desjardins, adding it has only a one in 3,000 chance of actually making contact.

The asteroid, dubbed Bennu, is also interesting to scientists because it's a remnant from the early days of the solar system.

It has been in orbit since its formation and has yet to collide with another object.  

This pristine state makes Bennu like a time capsule from the early days of the solar system.  

Some scientists believe asteroids like Bennu seeded the earth with the biological material that created life.

The mapping system will arrive at the asteroid on a NASA spacecraft.

It will scan the asteroid's surface to help NASA decide where to take a sample. A robotic arm will remove the sample and a capsule will shoot it back to earth.

"It's a key instrument to the mission," said Desjardins.

For participating in the mission, Canada will get four per cent of the sample brought back to earth.

The mission expects to bring back a total of 60 grams of samples from Bennu.


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