NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe arrived late last year on the great space rock called Bennu and spent the first months of 2019 watching its new space companion and teaching NASA more about the surface of the rock. Unfortunately for NASA engineers, the surface of the asteroid is not what it suspected, and this poses a serious challenge to the future.
The OSIRIS REx mission involves multiple orbit orbits around the rock itself NASA nailed it and things seemed to be great, or at least until scientists scrutinized Bennu's surface. As reported by Sky & Telescope it has made the matter very complicated.
With limited possibilities to observe the asteroid from Earth or from the plane towards the rock, the scientists believed that the asteroid was fairly smooth. A smooth surface would make the spacecraft's last maneuver-and getting close-up samples-much less risky, but that was not what Bennu had in store.
Bennu is, to put it simply, an absolute mess. The asteroid is covered with debris of all sizes, ranging from dust and small rocks to massive boulders and everything in between. This presents an enormous sampling challenge as the spacecraft has to avoid obstacles on its way to the surface of space rock.
It has always been planned that OSIRIS-REx will stay in orbit around Bennu for about a year. Observing its surface and forwarding data and images to its handlers on Earth. With the debris-covered surface now threatening the most anticipated action, NASA must carefully search for a safe place on the asteroid where the spacecraft can collect a sample before leaving Bennu and returning home. If they succeed, it will be a monumental achievement.