After a long waiting, NASA’s robotic probe OSIRIS-REx will land on asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn ground on October 20. The probe will touch down only for a few seconds to collect dust and rock samples.
Scientists really hope the mission will help us understand better how planets emerged and life began. It will also offer insight on asteroids that could impact our planet. Here is what you need to know.
OSIRIS-REx Mission Detailed
NASA has picked an area dubbed Nightingale, a rocky site 52 feet in diameter, for OSIRIS-REx’s robotic arm to attempt to gather a sample, because it holds the greatest amount of fine-grained material. The OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager, Mike Moreau, explained: “Years of planning and hard work […] are essentially coming down to putting the TAGSAM (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) into contact for just five to 10 seconds.”
OSIRIS-REx is expected to collect at least 57 grams of the asteroid’s rocky material to bring back to NASA – the most significant sample return from space since the Apollo mission. Also, because the spacecraft and Bennu will be almost 207 million miles from our planet, it will take approximately 18.5 minutes for signals to travel between them.
In addition to the telecommunication equipment, OSIRIS-REx has a suite of instruments that will examine asteroid Bennu in many wavelengths, as well as retrieve a physical sample to return to our planet, and of course, to image the asteroid.
OCAMS is the spacecraft’s Camera Suite that includes the MapCam, the PolyCam, and the SamCam. They acquire data on Bennu by offering global mapping, characterization, records of the sample acquisition, and more.
OTES is OSIRIS-REx’s Thermal Emission Spectrometer that provides thermal emission spectral maps. The instrument is also used to measure the total thermal emission from the asteroid.
Furthermore, OVIRS is the Visible and IR Spectrometer, which maps organic substances and minerals on Bennu’s surface. The last two instruments are REXIS and OLA, that can offer an X-ray spectroscopy map of the asteroid, and high-resolution topographical data, respectively.
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