NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been at asteroid Bennu since Dec. 3rd, 2018. On that day, it went from traveling to the asteroid to traveling around it. Since then it's been surveying and mapping Bennu.
Now OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) has reached a new milestone. On June 12th, the spacecraft executed another maneuver, and in the process broke its own record for the closest orbit of a planetary body by a spacecraft.
This is the beginning of a new phase for the OSIRIS-REx mission called Orbital B. In Orbital B, the spacecraft is orbiting asteroid Bennu at an altitude of 680 meters (2,231
OSIRIS-REx wants to remain in Orbital B until the second week of August. Following that, it wants to raise its orbit to 1.3 km (0.8 miles) above the surface. During the first two weeks of Orbital B, the spacecraft wants to investigate particles being ejected into space. Bennu, and scientists want to investigate by taking frequent images of the asteroid's horizon.
For Orbital B's remaining five weeks, the spacecraft will investigate Bennu with its science instruments. These include:
- OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA)
- PolyCam, which will create a high-resolution, global image mosaic of the asteroid.
- OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) which wants to create an infrared global map.
- REgolite X-ray Imaging Specvometer (REXIS) which produces a global X-ray map.
These instruments work together to help scientists select the best Bennu's Spot to collect a sample
Beyond choosing the sites with the best samples. The team operating the spacecraft wants to identify four possible sites for sample collection. Following the Orbital B phase is the Reconnaissance Phase of the mission. During that phase, OSIRIS-REx wants to make a series of low-level observations of the final two sample site candidates. 2 ft. (0.8 inches).
One of the obstacles to a successful sample collection is the unexpected rockiness of Bennu's surface. TAG need to be adjusted.
In order for a successful TAG, the team needs to find a landing site that is clear of large rocks and boulders. The site also needs to be level. If it's too tilted, the sampling poor may not be to do its job. According to NASA, the unexpected rockiness is adding an additional challenge.
If anyone's up to the challenge, it's probably NASA. Rich Burns is the Project Manager of OSIRIS-REx at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. OSIRIS-REx is up to the task. "
OSIRIS-REx is a seven year mission to study asteroid Bennu. Asteroids like Bennu are primitive bodies from the early days of the Solar System's formation 4.5 billion years ago. Retrieving a sample from this ancient piece of rock wants to help you to discover the history of our Solar System, including our old Earth.