NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft that’s analyzing the surface of the Asteroid Bennu is preparing to make the larges step in its mission. OSIRIS-Rex has managed to accomplish a series of rehearsal maneuvers for the past weeks.
Each one of these helped OSIRIS get closer and closer to the surface of the asteroid before returning into the orbit. The mission aims to collect several regolith samples from the surface of Bennu with the help of a touch-and-go procedure.
The latest maneuver that brought OSIRIS-REx less than 75 meters away from touching the asteroid’s ground is the “Checkpoint” mission. Other movements helped Bennu get within maximum 250 meters away from the asteroid’s surface, making this latest experiment the most promising one.
NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex Hovered Asteroid Bennu At Close
Since this was only a rehearsal, the spacecraft reached the checkpoint and then went back in the outer space to orbit the asteroid from a safe distance. During these session preparations, the probe can capture impressive images of the surface of Asteroid Bennu, which are collected and stored in the Natural Feature Tracking system. The main point of this image collection is to help OSIRIS-REx to guide its way when the final landing happens.
The spacecraft will not touch the surface of Bennu. Instead, it will use the help of a Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, which is implemented onto the spaceship, it will be released towards the surface and will spread nitrogen that will eventually kick up the dust and help it collect it into the sampling head of the device. This study aims to bring back on Earth approximately 60g of regolith that is less than 2cm.
Should the system face any problem, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is fueled for many approaching attempts, while TAGSAM can try the collecting procedure for three times. The first sampling attempt is due to take place on the 25th of August, and the Asteroid Bennu sample will reach our planet on the 24th of September 2023.