NASA’s spacecraft is getting ready to start its mission and gather material from asteroid Bennu’s surface.
Osiris-Rex (origins, spectral, interpretation, resource identification, security, regolith explorer) will start the asteroid mission in October. Recently, it performed the final practice run for the sample collection task.
The spacecraft is now at 288km from our planet, in orbit around the asteroid Bennu. On 20 October is scheduled to approach and touch the asteroid’s surface, where it will gather material from the ground. Here is what you need to know.
Osiris-Rex’s Mission Tasks and Other Significant Details
Asteroids are ancient cosmic features that date from the development of the Solar System. They can, therefore, unveil the conditions in which Earth evolved.
Osiris-Rex’s mission involves collecting material from asteroid Bennu’s surface. Recently, the spacecraft approached the space object to an altitude of almost 40 meters above the chosen collection area, and then backed away into its 1km-high safe-place orbit.
The rehearsal lasted approximately five hours. The sequence must be scheduled in advance because it needs 16 minutes for a signal to travel between our planet and Osiris-Rex, limiting real-time operation. During the performance, the sampling arm, also known as the touch-and-go sample retrieval mechanism, released and initiated its working configuration.
This rehearsal was the team’s second test run. Next time, Osiris-Rex will have to approach asteroid Bennu and collect samples. The samples will be sent to Earth in a protective capsule on 24 September 2023.
More About Osiris-Rex’s Mission
Osiris-Rex is a NASA asteroid research and sample-return mission. The mission’s main aim is to get a sample of at least 60 grams from asteroid Bennu.
The material returned should allow scientists to find more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, its first phases of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds that influenced the creation of life.
Osiris-Rex was lifted off on 8 September 2016, flew past us on 22 September 2017 and reached the vicinity of Bennu on 3 December 2018. There, it started analyzing the asteroid’s ground for a target sample area over the next months. On 12 December 2019, NASA finally confirmed the landing spot, dubbed Nightingale.
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