NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe has by now accomplished a lot of get the job done in a quite small amount of money of time. Just after initially arriving at the space rock known as Bennu way back again in 2018, it correctly entered its orbit and began scanning its floor for attention-grabbing sights. The asteroid’s surface area proved to be littered with more debris than NASA experienced anticipated, so getting a wonderful clean location to contact down posed a enormous problem.
The strategy all alongside has been for the probe to dive near to the asteroid and acquire a sample of its surface area material for review back on Earth. Choosing on a area took some time, and NASA had several would-be sample-selection internet sites mapped out right before coming to a last final decision. Now, we have a superb look at at the time of the backup collection websites.
As NASA explains, OSIRIS-REx performed a quite shut pass of the collection internet site acknowledged as Osprey in late May. It reduced by itself to within 250 meters of the asteroid’s dusty surface, which is hazardous in and of alone, but it was crucial to ensuring the mission is an eventual success.
The staff has currently selected the sample internet site referred to as Nightingale as the primary selection place, but it is significant to have a backup prepare. Osprey is that backup plan, and the OSIRIS-REx team desired a great obvious map of the place in the function that they’d have to resort to gathering a sample from Osprey instead of Nightingale.
The actual sample-collection maneuver is as sensitive as you can maybe picture. The spacecraft will have to lower alone to inside a literal arm’s achieve of the surface area, extend its robotic limb, and snatch a sample ahead of returning to a higher orbit. The probe will assure it gathered ample content right before departing and then, if every little thing appears to be like in buy, it will thrust by itself out of Bennu’s orbit and get started the extended journey property.
The probe won’t be making an attempt the sample gathering maneuver until finally August, but it is been getting some practice in the meantime. In April, NASA’s group sent the spacecraft on a brief dive toward the asteroid in advance of turning it back close to. It’s a bit like a practice swing, and it allows the probe’s handlers to get a greater thought of how OSIRIS-REx will reply throughout the eventual actual-world maneuver.
Because of the distance between the asteroid and Earth, genuine-time command of the probe is out of the question. Instead, the scientists have to convey to the probe to carry out a command and then hope that very little goes wrong. It is this simple reality that can make practising maneuvers forward of time so vitally significant.
The area of the asteroid Bennu as shot by the OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe.