OSIRIS-REx will take a pattern of Bennu on October 20

The date is lastly set for the OSIRIS-REx sampling maneuver. The spacecraft has been on the asteroid Bennu since late December 2018. In the meantime, it has discovered just a few surprises and mapped the floor intimately.

Now we are able to circle October 20 on our calendars as a result of the date on which OSIRIS-Rex will take its pattern.

OSIRIS-REx means Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer. Its goal, the asteroid Bennu, is a carbon asteroid, and it’s historical. Scientists consider that the essential chemical and mineral composition of the asteroid was decided within the first 10 million years of the historical past of the photo voltaic system. This makes it virtually perfect as a scientific goal.

OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas V rocket, September eight, 2016.

The mission has plenty of goals, together with floor mapping, understanding the Yarkovsky impact, and customarily making an attempt to know all the total properties of such an asteroid. However it’s the return pattern that’s the foundation of the mission.

"… the value all of us anticipate – getting a pattern of an asteroid to deliver it again to Earth …"

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA affiliate administrator for science

Astronomers are eager to take a pattern of this primordial rock, to be able to perceive its minerals and natural compounds. Asteroids like Bennu will be one of many keys to understanding how the photo voltaic system was fashioned and even how life began.

OSIRIS-REx found particles ejected from the asteroid Bennu shortly after arriving on the asteroid. Picture Credit score: NASA / Goddard / College of Arizona / Lockheed Martin

OSIRIS-REx found just a few surprises for Bennu. Shortly after arriving on the asteroid, the spacecraft found ejected particles. This makes Bennu an "lively asteroid" or shedding mass. In Bennu's case, his lack of mass is episodic quite than steady. A few of the ejected particles orbited the asteroid for just a few days earlier than falling again to the floor, whereas others have been ejected into house.

In response to one research, there have been three causes for these ejected particles: the impacts of meteorites, fracturing by thermal stress or the discharge of water vapor.

Bennu's floor was additionally a shock. Moderately than a extra uniform floor with many appropriate sampling areas, the floor is a chaos of tangled and harmful rocks. That's why discovering a pattern website and a backup website takes so lengthy.

Floor strewn with Bennu rocks. Picture credit score: NASA / College of Arizona.

Lastly, the mission operators discovered 4 candidate sampling websites, all named after birds. Now they’ve moved to a primary website and a backup website. The principle website is known as Nightingale and the rescue website is known as Osprey.

 OSIRIS-REx sampling websites on Bennu. Left, Nightingale, the principle website. On the best, Osprey, the backup website. Picture credit score: NASA / GSFC / College of Arizona. "Class =" wp-image-146178 "/> OSIRIS-REx sampling websites on Bennu. On the left, Nightingale, the principle website. On the best, Osprey, the backup website Blockless websites just like the one - with an acceptable particle dimension for sampling, there aren't many on Bennu Picture credit score: NASA / GSFC / College of Arizona.


<p> On October 20, OSIRIS-REx will strategy Nightingale utilizing its pure traits monitoring system (NFT) to information itself to the floor. The NFT makes use of a database of on-board pictures of Bennu's floor, and compares them to what its cameras see in actual time because it descends. By evaluating the 2, the spacecraft can information itself round harmful rocks. </p>
<p> If he encounters issues, he can abort autonomously and return to a protected orbital place. OSIRIS-REx has enough assets for 3 sampling makes an attempt. </p>
<p><img src= A diagram displaying the sampling operation of OSIRIS-REx. The desire is now scheduled for October 20, 2020. Picture credit score: NASA / GSFC / UA

The sampling process itself will finish pretty rapidly. The spacecraft will hit Bennu's floor with its sampling mechanism, known as TAGSAM, or Contact-And-Go Pattern Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM will emit a puff of nitrogen gasoline after which accumulate particles in suspension within the Bennu regolith. This puff then accumulate motion will solely take 5 seconds.

That is NASA's first asteroid sampling mission, and there have been some challenges.

"The OSIRIS-REx mission demonstrated the essence of exploration by persevering within the face of surprising challenges," mentioned NASA affiliate administrator for science Thomas Zurbuchen in an announcement by hurry. "This spirit led them to the daybreak of the value all of us anticipate – to get a pattern of an asteroid to deliver it again to Earth, and I’m very completely satisfied to observe them alongside the best way."

However the challenges OSIRIS-REx faces aren’t all on the market in house and on an asteroid. The COVID-19 pandemic creates challenges that nobody anticipated. And it’s the pandemic that’s partly answerable for this delay in sampling. Because of the inherent complexity of spacecraft operations and the issue encountered by the private mission in assembling in teams, NASA and Goddard granted the mission two extra months. The preliminary sampling date for August has subsequently been moved to October.

Nobody might have foreseen the pandemic when the mission was initially deliberate. However missions like this at all times include contingencies in planning, as a result of there are at all times contingencies.

"I’m satisfied that even confronted with the present problem, this workforce will achieve taking our pattern from Bennu."

Dante Lauretta, principal investigator OSIRIS-REx, College of Arizona

"When planning the mission, we included a powerful planning margin throughout our keep at Bennu to supply the pliability to fulfill surprising challenges," mentioned Wealthy Burns, OSIRIS-REx undertaking supervisor at Goddard NASA House Flight Heart. “This flexibility allowed us to adapt to the surprises that Bennu threw us. Now could be the time to prioritize the well being and security of workforce members and the spacecraft. "

The workforce remains to be assured that OSIRIS-REx will achieve taking – and returning – a pattern of Bennu on Earth.

"The unbelievable efficiency of this mission so far is testomony to the extraordinary talent and dedication of the OSIRIS-REx workforce," mentioned Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at College of Arizona, Tucson. "I’m satisfied that even confronted with the present problem, this workforce will achieve taking our pattern from Bennu."

If profitable, the pattern will return to Earth by September 24, 2023.

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