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Home / Science / This is the Closest OSIRIS REx has Gotten to Bennu. Just 680 Meters Above the Asteroid

This is the Closest OSIRIS REx has Gotten to Bennu. Just 680 Meters Above the Asteroid



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

feet).

An illustration of OSIRIS-REx as it executed a maneuver into Orbital B, which took 680 meters (2,231 ft.) Image Credit: University of Arizona .

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.

 Scientists were surprised to see these particles being ejected from Bennu. During the first part of Orbital B, the spacecraft wants to investigate the phenomenon. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin
Scientists were surprised at seeing these particles being ejected from Bennu. During the first part of Orbital B, the spacecraft wants to investigate the phenomenon. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin

For Orbital B's remaining five weeks, the spacecraft will investigate Bennu with its science instruments. These include:

  • OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA)
  • OSRIS-REx.
  • 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).

This image of asteroid Bennu was taken at an altitude of only 690 m (0.4 miles) from the asteroid's surface. It was captured by NavCam 1, one of three cameras in the spacecraft's TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System) suite. The asteroid's largest resident boulder is on the bottom edge. At this resolution, details as small as 0.5 ft (1.6 ft) can be found in the center of the image. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona / Lockheed Martin

One of the obstacles to a successful sample collection is the unexpected rockiness of Bennu's surface. TAG need to be adjusted.

 OSIRIS-REx found that Bennu's surface is unexpectedly rocky. The large light-colored skirt in the center is about 7.4 meters (24 ft.) Wide. That's about the width of a basketball court. This image was captured by the spacecraft's PolyCam camera. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona
OSIRIS-REx found that Bennu's surface is unexpectedly rocky. The large light-colored skirt in the center is about 7.4 meters (24 ft.) Wide. That's about the width of a basketball court. This image was captured by the spacecraft's PolyCam camera. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

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.

 An artist's illustration of OSIRIS-REx's DAYS collecting a sample from Bennu's surface. Image Credit: By NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center - http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/osiris-rex-grabs-a-sample (image link), public domain, https: //commons.wikimedia. org / w / index.php? curid = 52203236
An artist's illustration of OSIRIS-REx's DAYS collecting a sample from Bennu's surface. Image Credit: By NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center – http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/osiris-rex-grabs-a-sample (image link), public domain, https: //commons.wikimedia. org / w / index.php? curid = 52203236

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.

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