Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Home Tech NASA's OSIRIS REx spacecraft reaches Bennu asteroid - CBS News

NASA's OSIRIS REx spacecraft reaches Bennu asteroid – CBS News

Two years after the launch of Cape Canaveral, NASA OSIRIS-REx spacecraft Finally, on Monday, he reached his destination and slowly approached the asteroid Bennu, who approached the close-up of nearly a year and a half over four and a half years before attempting to collect soil and rock samples to return to Earth.

"We have arrived!" An engineer called from the Lockheed Martin Flight Control Center in Colorado and watched the telemetry from 76 million miles away that confirmed the completion of a critical rocket fire

OSIRIS-REx now executes five near-range runs before slipping into orbit around the asteroid at the end of the year.

This series of images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows the asteroid Bennu in one full turn from a distance of about 80 km.

Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA / University of Arizona

The Mission OSIRIS-REx and NASA spacecraft New Horizonswho now has a billion-dollar inhabitant of the Kuiper belt behind him PlutoBoth aim to study primitive bodies that existed before the birth of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

New Horizons will fly past its target on New Year's Day, a frozen, unaltered body called Ultima Thule, a few hours after OSIRIS-REx slipped into a gravity-locked orbit around Bennu.

The goal of both missions is to learn more about how the original sun-fog merged into the Sun and its wake of planets, asteroids, and comets to give scientists a better understanding of the resources needed to build the Earth and even for Earth whose development was responsible for life.

OSIRIS-REx – the twisted acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security Regolith Explorer – comes with three cameras, two spectrometers, a laser altimeter and a college-developed X-ray imaging system.

It is also equipped with a "Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism" (TAGSAM) at the end of a 10 foot robotic arm. In July 2020, after one and a half years of detailed mapping and sampling, OSIRIS-REx will briefly press in contact with the surface of Bennu in the form of an inverted cake shape.

During the five-second maneuver, compressed nitrogen gas is injected into the collector, shaking up small rocks and soil. Part of this material, at least two ounces and up to 4.4 pounds, is trapped in filters for the return to Earth.

After retraction, OSIRIS-REx instructs the robotic arm to place the collector in an aerodynamic sample return capsule. At this point in time, in situ science is stopped and OSIRIS-REx simply waits for the Earth and Bennu to reach the proper positions in their orbits to begin their long journey home.

"We can not leave Bennu until March 2021, just because we have to wait for the mechanics to get into orbit," said Dante Lauretta, senior investigator, in a previous interview. "So that's more than two and a half years of operations on the asteroid – we're just touching the asteroid for that brief, five-second contact – we'll do anything to make sure we get the sample on the asteroid first attempt."

OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth in September 2023 and drop the sample container for rapid descent into the Utah Test and Training Range about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah. Rescue teams will deliver the capsule to the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curing Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the Apollo lunar rocks are stored.

Part of the Bennu sample is kept in reserve while the remainder is subjected to a two-year detailed analysis.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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