Canada is about to build the technology that will be used to map an asteroid in 3D using lasers in a future space mission.
The tool will fly aboard OSIRIS-REx unmanned spacecraft NASA, who will visit the Bennu asteroid, collect a sample from its surface, and bring it back to Earth, head of the Canadian Space Agency Natynzczk Walter said in an interview conference in Toronto on Thursday.
The spacecraft will be launched in September 2015, reaching Bennu in November 2018 to return to Earth in 2023.
Canadian scientists will work with space technology company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA). The company is about to start building and testing the new tool, known as the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (HELLO).
"They will be creating a 3D map of the asteroid. This will help the team to choose the best place to land and collect the sample using advanced robotics," said the President of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement, at the press conference.
Craig Thornton, general manager of robotics and automation for MDA, said the device will have 160 million measurements of Bennu, which is about 500 meters in diameter, producing the most precise map ever created of an asteroid.
Clement said the federal government has committed $ 61 million for the mission over the next 15 years, including a contract of $ 9 million for MDA.
In return for their contribution to CSA will have four percent of the sample asteroid for its scientists to study.
York University researcher Mike Daly, deputy principal investigator for HELLO team, said he thinks that as a result of the mission, "we will learn things about these asteroids that we never, ever expected to learn."
In an interview with CBC News, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield retired said the operation will be very challenging because Bennu is in constant rotation.
"Imagine if you were trying to drive your car in a parking spot that is turning," he said, adding that the HELLO will help to approach the asteroid spaceship safely.
Bennu is rich in carbon composite material asteroid that is thought to be left over from the formation of the solar system and its rocky planets.
Hadfield thinks studying asteroids as Bennu will help scientists understand the origin of our planet. Can also help humans defend against asteroids that threaten Earth.