NASA’s Osiris-Rex Benu to land on asteroid: Here’s what happens

NASA's Osiris-Rex Benu to land on asteroid: Here's what happens

The artist’s idea of ​​NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft collects a sample from the asteroid Bennu.

NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft Next week it will briefly touch a large asteroid, grab some rocks and dust from its surface and return to Earth for study. Event marking a First for NASA A boon to science, space exploration, and our understanding of the solar system.

Touch and Go (TAG) sample collection of the asteroid 101955 Bennu Tuesday, October 20 at 3:12 p.m. TAG Kusruti will be broadcast live on NASA TV and tagged Agency Website Tuesday at 2 p.m. Here’s everything you need to know about how Osiris-Rex, Ben, and NASA plan to pick pocket an asteroid.

When did the mission begin?

The concept of Osiris-Rex has been around since 2004, when it was first proposed to NASA by a team of astronomers. The spacecraft after more than a decade of development Launched September 8, 2016 from Cape Canaveral, FloridaAbove the Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft traveled to Bennu for the next 26 months, officially arriving on December 3, 2018.

After that, the mission team orbited the diamond-shaped space rock, surveyed and mapped its surface, and selected the best sample location. In the coming months, rehearsals began ahead of the upcoming sample collection effort, and now the team says TAG is ready to play with Bennu.

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Why Bennu?

Bennu has been called the “debris pile” asteroid, which means that gravity is slowly pasting the remnants of an ancient collision into the deep cosmic past. The result is a body-shaped spinning top, about one-third of a mile (500 m) in diameter and a surface of large boulders and boulders.

Ben thinks of the solar system as a window into the past: a carbon-rich body that carries the building blocks of planets and life. Some of these resources, such as water and metals, need to be mined for future use on Earth or for space exploration.

This asteroid has another feature that makes it interesting to scientists and humans in general – it has the potential to influence the Earth in the distant future. Is on NASA List of Impact Risks, Bennu is in second place. Current data show dozens of potential impacts in the last quarter of the 22nd century, yet all are actually only a minute away.

How does TAG work?

For anyone who has ever interacted with robots or entered a robotic competition, the Osiris-Rex mission seems to be the ultimate end of a young robotist’s dream. The touch-and-go sample procedure is a complex and high-profile task that has been evolving into a major climactic moment over the years. If it succeeds, it will play a role in history and our future in space.

The basic plan is to touch Osiris-Rex Bennu on a rock Landing site called Nightingale. The van-sized spacecraft needs to discuss building-sized rocks around the landing area to touch a relatively clear space the size of only a few parking spaces. However, the robotic sample arm will be the only part of the Osiris-Rex that is actually set on the surface. One of the three pressurized nitrogen canisters can stir a sample of dust and small rocks and hold it to the arm of the arm collector to keep it safe and return to the ground.

It takes about four hours to get to the surface of Benu, about the time it takes for the asteroid to create a complete revolution. After this slow approach, the actual TAG sample collection procedure is less than 16 seconds.

Preparing for the TAG is not exactly planned. Mission organizers initially expected that there would be plenty of landing sites on Bennu’s surface. Primarily covered with fine material comparable to sand or gravel. It turns out that Bennu’s surface is very rough with no real welcome landing areas.

After reassessing the mission over the past two years, the team decided to do “needle threading” through the rocky landscape of Nightingale and two other backup sample sites. It is still possible to prove that the surface is too rocky to get a good sample. If so, the team may choose to retry on another site. The Osiris-Rex is equipped with three nitrogen canisters, which help to break and block the surface, which gives the team up to three attempts to capture a sample.

What then?

As soon as its sample is collected, Osiris-Rex will fire its thrusters to withdraw from Bennu. The spacecraft will be hovering above Bennu until 2020, before embarking on a two-year journey to Earth with next year’s launch strategy.

On September 24, 2023, Osiris-Rex decided to make its sample return capsule Jettison, which will land in the Utah desert and retrieve for study.

Haven’t done this before?

Yes. Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft successfully returns small grains from asteroid 25143 Itokawa To Earth in 2010. Its successor, the Hayabusa-2, was a success In 2019, a special copper bullet was fired at the large asteroid Ryugu Then some shrapnel was recovered. That sample is currently on its way to Earth.

How can I see?

Follow NASA Livestream, Tuesday at 2 p.m. You can also follow it Osiris-Rex Twitter feed To get the latest updates.

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