OSIRIS-REx flew 620 meters above its touchdown website. Confirms that it is a Boulder-Strewn nightmare, similar to the remainder of Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft hit its goal, the asteroid Bennu (101955 Bennu), on December three, 2018. Since then, the spacecraft has been analyzing the floor of the asteroid, searching for an appropriate touchdown level to gather a pattern. The issue is that Bennu has a way more rocky and tough floor than initially thought.

The principle mission of OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer) is to gather a pattern of the asteroid Bennu and return it to Earth. It’s a dangerous transfer, and to achieve success, the spacecraft should discover a sampling location that meets two situations: it will need to have fine-grained materials appropriate for sampling, and it should be secure for the spacecraft.

The spacecraft carefully studied the floor of the asteroid and, in December, NASA introduced that it had decreased the sampling website to 4 candidates on the theme of the asteroid. 39; avian: Kingfisher, Osprey, Sandpiper and Nightingale. After taking a better have a look at these 4, NASA chosen Nightingale as the first sampling website, with Osprey serving because the reserve.

 NASA chosen Nightingale as the first sampling website for Bennu. It's comparatively freed from rocks and has the precise materials for sampling. Picture credit score: NASA / Goddard House Flight Heart. "Class =" wp-image-144381 "/> NASA has chosen Nightingale as its important sampling website for Bennu. It's comparatively freed from rocks and has the precise measurement for sampling. Credit score Credit score ; picture: NASA / Goddard House Flight Heart. 

<p> This was a part of reconnaissance section A. Now the mission is in reconnaissance section B, and this section requires OSIRIS-REx to get very near Bennu. </p>
<p>The spacecraft's orbit retains it 1.2 km (zero.75 mi) above the floor of the asteroid. OSIRIS-REx acquired very shut yesterday. In an virtually 11-hour maneuver, the spacecraft approached inside 620 meters (zero.four mi) of the floor and flew over the location of Nightingale, a parcel of land solely 16 meters (52 ft) broad. </p>
<p> That is the smallest maneuver ever carried out by the spacecraft. He used one in every of his Low Thrust Response Engine Meeting (LTR) thrusters to provoke the strategy. These are the smallest thrusters on board, and so they have moved the spacecraft at three.7mm / s. </p>
<p><img src= The OSIRIS-REx Osprey backup sampling website on the asteroid Bennu. Picture credit score: NASA / GSFC

Then it is going to get even nearer.

In March, it is going to perform the reconnaissance section C. Throughout this section, the spacecraft will strategy inside 250 m (820 ft) of Bennu. On March three, it is going to fly over Nightingale at this altitude, and on March 26 will probably be the identical for Osprey. These flyovers will present essential high-resolution photos of every website to establish the ample fine-grained supplies at every website.

As soon as the popularity section C is accomplished, OSIRIS-REx will carry out two repetitions of its sampling operation. He’ll observe leaving his orbit and going to a predetermined checkpoint instantly on the sampling location, then he’ll return to his secure orbit. Throughout the second repetition, it is going to depart its orbit and its maneuver to a Matchpoint. There it is going to fly over the sampling location earlier than returning to orbit once more.

 OSIRIS-REx will carry out two sampling repetitions earlier than performing the precise sampling maneuver. Picture credit score: Lauretta et al 2017 "class =" wp-image-144735 "/> OSIRIS-REx will carry out two sampling repetitions earlier than performing the precise sampling maneuver. Credit score Picture: Lauretta et al 2017 

<p> These rehearsals are important for the success of the mission. Throughout every rehearsal, the spacecraft will observe and analyze the OCAMS and TAGCAMS photos and the LIDAR knowledge. OSIRIS-REx workforce will use all of this to confirm that the flight system is working nicely. </p>
<p> Subsequent comes the ultimate sampling. </p>
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The TAGSAM (Contact-and-Go-Pattern-Acquisition-Mechanism) instrument of the spacecraft will accumulate a pattern of Bennu's regolith. TAGSAM is an articulated robotic arm. As OSIRIS-REx approaches Nightingale, it is going to lengthen this arm towards the floor of the asteroid. The spacecraft will strategy the asteroid very slowly and, in doing so, TAGSAM will make contact.

 A diagram of the particular sampling maneuver. Picture credit score: Lauretta et al 2017 "class =" wp-image-144736 "/> A diagram of the particular sampling maneuver. Picture credit score: Lauretta et al 2017 

<p> It should solely contact the floor for a brief time frame – about 5 seconds – which is lengthy sufficient to gather a pattern. It collects a pattern by blowing nitrogen fuel over the regolith, sending fine-grained supplies above the floor, to be captured by TAGSAM. It should then measure the quantity of fabric within the pattern to see whether it is enough. NASA needs to take a 60 gram (2.1 oz) pattern ). </p>
<p> NASA has a brand new methodology for weighing the pattern. As soon as they’ve collected a pattern, they’ll activate the boosters to again away from Bennu. Then, with the prolonged TAGSAM, they’ll rotate the spacecraft. They may measure the inertia and examine it to a earlier rotation with the prolonged, however empty TAGSAM. </p>
<p>A TAGSAM animation gathering a pattern of Bennu. </p>
<p> If the pattern isn’t giant sufficient, it will probably repeat the process. OSIRIS-REx has sufficient nitrogen to take three samples, if obligatory. </p>
<p> As soon as NASA is aware of that it has efficiently taken samples, the TAGSAM head might be positioned within the Pattern Return Capsule (SRC). Then OSIRIS-REx might be slowly moved to a secure distance. </p>
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