#astronomy NASA’s OSIRIS-REX Leaves Asteroid Bennu, Heads for Residence – Sky & Telescope

May 12, 2021 - Comment

An artist’s illustration reveals OSIRIS-REX departing 101955 Bennu. NASA / GSFC It has been definitely worth the wait. After 5 years on mission, together with greater than two years spent exploring the 500-meter asteroid 101955 Bennu, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REX) burned its thrusters for seven minutes on Monday,


osiris-rex departsAn artist’s illustration reveals OSIRIS-REX departing 101955 Bennu.
NASA / GSFC

It has been definitely worth the wait. After 5 years on mission, together with greater than two years spent exploring the 500-meter asteroid 101955 Bennu, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Useful resource Identification, Safety, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REX) burned its thrusters for seven minutes on Monday, Could 10th. This burn set the spacecraft shifting 1,000 kilometers per hour (600 mph) relative to the asteroid to start out its 2.5-year journey house to Earth.

“Our complete mindset has been, ‘the place are we in area relative to Bennu?’” says Mike Moreau (NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Heart) in a current press launch. “Now our mindset has shifted to ‘the place is the spacecraft in relation to Earth?’”

The Lengthy Street Residence

Now, the spacecraft will orbit the Solar twice inside to the orbit of Venus, earlier than making a flyby of the Earth on September 24, 2023. Then, the pattern return capsule will separate from the spacecraft, for a parachute reentry over the Utah Check and Coaching Vary within the Utah desert. This isn’t with out threat: in 2004, the Genesis pattern return capsule slammed into the Utah desert flooring when its drogue chute didn’t open.

Bennu rotationOSIRIS-REX captured the boulder-strewn world of Bennu.
NASA / Goddard / College of Arizona.

OSIRIS-REX arrived at Bennu in December 2018 and spent a number of months mapping the asteroid from afar earlier than approaching it up shut. The mission’s climax occurred on October 20, 2020, when the spacecraft approached the Nightingale web site, touched the floor of the asteroid for six seconds, and fired a burst of nitrogen fuel by means of its Contact and Go, Pattern Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm to gather bits of rock from the floor.

The sampling maneuver proved to be greater than profitable, because the SamCam imager revealed the TAGSAM head was overflowing with materials, slowly escaping although an open flap. Engineers made the fast resolution to instantly stow the pattern earlier than dropping any additional materials, forgoing the optionally available spin check to “weigh” the collected particles.

Even with out the spin check, NASA is assured based mostly on visible inspection that the maneuver collected between 400 grams and 1 kilogram of regolith — effectively over the mission aim of 60 grams. The samples collected by OSIRIS-REX signify pristine remnants of the early photo voltaic system — to not point out NASA’s greatest pattern return because the Apollo period.

Mission controlMission management through the completion of the pattern stow maneuver.
Lockheed Martin

The asteroid held its share of surprises and challenges for the mission workforce. Bennu’s floor turned out to be rougher than anticipated, strewn with giant boulders that made pattern web site choice difficult. Regardless of the potential hazards, pattern assortment was profitable. A final cross three.5 kilometers over the Nightingale web site, accomplished earlier than the workforce switched off navigation cameras on April ninth, confirmed the impression the spacecraft made upon touchdown.

Nightingale siteThe Nightingale touchdown web site earlier than and after pattern acquisition.
NASA / GSFC / College of Arizona

Now, engineers will periodically verify in on the spacecraft, making course corrections as wanted. If every part goes as deliberate, OSIRIS-REX ought to have plenty of gasoline remaining post-Earth flyby. The truth is, it’s not out of the query that the spacecraft would possibly head towards a secondary goal. Each Japan’s Hayabusa 2 and China’s Chang’e 5 lunar pattern collector, which accomplished their major missions in 2020, are actually headed towards new targets.

Earth flyby trajectoryThe 2023 Earth flyby trajectory for OSIRIS-REX.
NASA / Lockheed Martin

It has been an extended journey already, and miles left to cowl, however it is going to be thrilling to see the pattern return capsule streaking throughout the Utah sky come late 2023.

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