Great news for space enthusiasts — you now have the chance to make and showcase your very own asteroid Bennu model. All you need is access to a 3D printer and some fun colors to experiment with.
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of months, or you simply don't follow space news, you will have heard of asteroid Bennu by now. This large space rock, which measures around 1,650 feet in diameter, is currently being orbited by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft — NASA's first-ever asteroid-sampling mission.
In fact, the diamond-shaped Bennu boasts the title of the smallest celestial body ever orbited by a man-made spacecraft — a record achieved on December 31, 2018, when the OSIRIS-REx probe slipped into a tight orbit around the asteroid.
The space rock is floating through space some 71 million miles from our planet, nestled between the orbits of Earth and Mars. Since the beginning of December, when OSIRIS-REx first reached the asteroid two years after the mission was launched, NASA has released a slew of photographs showing the surface of Bennu in unprecedented detail.
Mission fans and space enthusiasts have watched with awe and excitement as each data release unraveled more of Bennu's secrets and turned this intangible space rock – of which we knew virtually nothing about until OSIRIS-REx eventually caught up with it on December 3, 2018 – into a more graspable object of knowledge and discovery.
Now, ardent fans have the opportunity to showcase their own model of asteroid Bennu, courtesy of NASA and the OSIRIS-REx mission. According to an announcement made earlier today via Twitter, NASA has released two sets of designs that will enable anyone with a 3D printer to print their own version of asteroid Bennu.The 3D-printing designs for asteroid Bennu are available on the OSIRIS-REx website in both STL and OBJ file format. The designs are based on two different shape models of the space rock — one developed in 2013 and the other one released in late 2018.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, the 2013 shape model of asteroid Bennu is what set the grounds for the entire OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched in September of 2016. The model was developed with the help of ground-based telescope observations and helped plan the mission to study the then-unfamiliar space rock.
Meanwhile, the 2018 shape model – released by NASA one week after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the asteroid – was put together by the mission's team based on data gathered by the probe during its approach to Bennu.
"As it turns out, the original 2013 model closely predicted the asteroid's actual shape, with Bennu's diameter, rotation rate, inclination, and overall shape presented almost exactly as projected," the OSIRIS-REx team explained in a statement.
The major difference between the two models is that the more recent one "shows features on Bennu as small as six meters [about 20 feet]," said the team.
Anyone who wishes to own a 3D-printed mini-version of asteroid Bennu can take their pick between the two shape models. Naturally, the designs can be scaled down to the desired size so that the asteroid model doesn't take up too much space.
This is not the first time that NASA has offered designs from one of its space projects to the general public. Last year, the space agency released a DIY manual that showed rover enthusiasts how to build their own version of the Curiosity Mars rover, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time.