NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission has been steadily progressing since the spacecraft arrived at the diamond-shaped space rock known as Bennu a few months ago.
The rock ends up being far more , well, dirty than NASA originally expected. Bennu's surface is ready to be dropped on NASA's team that's ready to take a look at the asteroid to collect samples.
Japan's asteroid sample just got another hole in the space rock Ryugu
NASA's Hubble Spotted an asteroid spinning so fast it's self-destructing
Nobody knows if NASA's OSIRIS-REx can pull off its asteroid-sampling maneuver
In a new blog post, NASA explains how it uses a tool called the OSIRIS-REX Laser Altimeter (OLA) to scan much of Bennu's surface. The instrument paints a 3D picture of the hard surfaces of the laser bounces off, giving NASA researchers a detailed glimpse of the asteroid's rocky surface.
Choosing a location for the sample's most dangerous maneuver a letter touchdown and sample collection – succeeds or fails. Touching down in an area with too much debris could be catastrophic for the probe, resulting in damage to the space itself and potentially compromising one of its major objectives.
The three-dimensional laser model of the asteroid gives NASA's team a bit more information on what parts of the asteroid appear safer than others. Avoiding large boulders is key, but with so few seemingly "clean" spaces on Bennu it is still a challenge to decide where to put it.
NASA still has plenty of time to make that decision, however, with the sample scheduled to stay in orbit around Bennu for the duration of 2019
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- NASA's asteroid probe shot Bennu with a laser, and this is the result
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