Touch-and-go: U.S. spacecraft sampling asteroid for return

James Marshall
October 18, 2020

NASA's first mission to return a sample from an ancient asteroid - the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-Rex - is a seven-year long voyage set to conclude upon the delivery to Earth of at least 60 grams and, possibly, up to nearly 2 kgs of sample.

The 4,650-pound OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, described as the size of a van, is only meant to make contact with asteroid 101955 Bennu via a robotic arm to collect anywhere from 2 ounces to 4.4 pounds of rock and dust samples. The van-sized spacecraft is just as large as a transparent space that would need to interact with building-sized boulders around the landing area to touch a relatively clean space.

"So for some perspective, the next time you park your auto in front of your house or in front of a coffee shop and walk inside, think about the challenge of navigating Osiris-Rex into one of these spots from 200 million miles away", said NASA's deputy project manager Mike Moreau. Mike Moreau, NASA's Deputy Project Manager, said.

Once it drops out of its half-mile-high (0.75 kilometre-high) orbit around Bennu, the spacecraft will take a deliberate four hours to make it all the way down, to just above the surface. Its actual contact with this ancient object would last under five seconds. The pre-programmed spacecraft operates autonomously during an unprecedented touch-and-go maneuver.

Washington, Oct 18 (SocialNews.XYZ) As a NASA spacecraft gets ready for the historic moment to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu's surface on October 20, this pristine remnant from the early days of our solar system offers more than what meets the eye.

OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in 2021 and deliver the sample to Earth on September 24, 2023.

Although NASA has recovered comet dust and solar wind particles, it has never attempted to sample one of the almost 1 million known asteroids hiding in our solar system so far. Japan, meanwhile, expects to get samples from asteroid Ryugu in December - in the milligrams at most - 10 years after bringing back specks from asteroid Itokawa.

Bennu is an asteroid picker paradise.

Not only is it conveniently close and carbonaceous, it is also so primitive that scientists calculated it formed in the first 10 million years of our solar system's history - over 4.5 billion years ago.

"This is all about understanding our origins", said the mission's principal scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona. It is still possible that the surface will be too rocky to get the best sample. Bennu, however, could potentially threaten Earth late in the next century, as it has a 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting the planet in one of its close approaches. Bennu ranks second on NASA's list of impact risks.

The asteroid has another property that makes it particularly interesting for scientists and humans in general - it has the chance to affect Earth in the distant future.

Scientists envisioned Bennu's stretch of sand when Osiris-Rex caused an explosion in 2016 on more than $800 million missions. Therefore, the spacecraft is created to take in small pebbles less than 2 centimeters in diameter.

Scientists were stunned to find massive rocks and chunky gravel all over the place when the spacecraft arrived in 2018. And I've witnessed gravel shooting bullets off an asteroid and occasionally popping back out of the table tennis space game.

With so much rough terrain, the engineers tried to hit a narrower spot than originally expected. This is NASA's first-ever asteroid sample return mission. "The COVID makes it even more hard". Osiris-Rex is equipped with three nitrogen canisters to fire and destroy the surface. Of the Return flight Direction earth is with about three years of travel time even covered a little faster than the outward flight.

When the spacecraft faces unexpected dangers, such as a large rock that can overturn, it will automatically retreat.

In either case, the spacecraft would return to orbit around Bennu and try again in January at another location.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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