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Bennu is officially classified as a potentially dangerous asteroid. In fact, there's an 0.037 percent (or 1-in-2,700) chance that it will strike Earth in the last quarter of the 22nd century, NASA scientists have calculated.
Specifically, that's the probability that, during an Earthy flyby in 2135, Bennu will hit a special orbit-altering "keyhole" that will send it on a collision course with the planet later in the century.
OSIRIS-REx will help scientists refine those odds, by refining their understanding of Bennu's orbit. (That orbit, by the way, is already the best-known of any asteroid, Lauretta said; thanks to extensive observations since Bennu's 1999 discovery, astronomers have nailed the space rock's orbital radius down to within 20 feet, or 6 m.)
"Our uncertainties will shrink, so that will allow us to recalculate the impact probability," Lauretta said. "We don't know which direction it'll go. It could go down, because we just eliminated a bunch of possible keyholes that Bennu may hit. Or it may go up, because in the area that's left we have a higher concentration of keyholes compared to the overall area of the uncertainty plane."
The spacecraft had an initial spin rate of 30 rpm. Twenty minutes following the launch, the vehicle's three booms were extended, which slowed the rotation rate to 4.8 rpm. This rate was maintained throughout the voyage. The launch vehicle accelerated the probe for net interval of 17 minutes, reaching a velocity of 51,682 km/h (32,114 mph).