An artist’s conception of Osiris-REX approaching asteroid 101955 Bennu. NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona It’s been a very long time coming, but when all goes as deliberate, NASA’s Osiris-REX spacecraft will attain out and contact asteroid 101955 Bennu tomorrow, so as to acquire a pattern to return to Earth. The mission’s strategy and sampling actions might be broadcast dwell on NASA TV and the company’s web site beginning at 5 p.m. EDT (precise landing is scheduled for six:12 p.m. EDT).
Launched atop an Atlas 5 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 8, 2016, Osiris-REX carried out an Earth flyby on September 22, 2017, and arrived at Bennu on December 3, 2018. The spacecraft now retains tempo with Bennu on its 437-day orbit across the Sun, finishing loops across the asteroid between 22 and 62 hours lengthy.
The tough and tumble world of Bennu. NASA / Goddard / University of ArizonaUpon arrival, researchers realized that they might have to rigorously think about their strategy to the boulder-strewn asteroid. Half a kilometer throughout, Bennu spins on its axis as soon as each 4.Three hours, and its jumbled terrain options boulders larger than Osiris-REX itself. The floor was a lot bumpier than researchers had anticipated from Earthbound observations, in order that they took time (and lots of further observations) to work out how to proceed. The mission crew mapped Bennu at a decision down to 5 cm (2 inches) per pixel in preparation for this week’s sampling.
Researchers hope that samples introduced again from Bennu will give us pristine examples of circumstances within the primordial photo voltaic system. If the primary sampling maneuver would not go as deliberate, there are two prospects for again-up makes an attempt.
The strategy to BennuNASA / GSFC“If all goes well, the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) will stow the gathered material and begin the trip home,” says mission undertaking supervisor Roger Harris (OSIRIS-Rex Project Manager) in a latest press launch.
The contact-and-go maneuver isn’t a lot a touchdown as it’s a temporary “hand slap” of the asteroid’s rocky floor. Bennu is presently 18 gentle-minutes away (greater than twice the typical distance between Earth and the Sun), so the spacecraft is by itself because it carries out the sampling try. The spacecraft will use its Natural Feature Tracking System for terrain avoidance on strategy and departure, and a 5-second timer will restrict the gathering sequence to keep away from spacecraft collision with the floor.
This sequence of photos comes from a contact-and-go gown rehearsal final April; the TAGSAM arm is seen within the middle of the body. NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona.Sequence of Sampling Events
Starting at 1:50 p.m. EDT / 17:50 UT, Osiris-REX will start to match the rotation of the asteroid and strategy the 16-meter-huge Nightingale area. The spacecraft might be in a Y-configuration with its photo voltaic panels upraised to keep away from any run-ins with boulders. The sampling itself will happen at 6:12 p.m. EDT / 22:12 UT. This maneuver is not unpracticed: Osiris-REX carried out a gown rehearsal over Nightingale on April 15th.
NASA TV will carry the TAG dwell beginning at 5:00 p.m. EDT / 21:00 UT. During the maneuver, the TAGSAM arm will prolong to place a group dish the dimensions of a dinner plate on the asteroid’s floor. It will hearth a burst of nitrogen gasoline to fire up materials into the sampling compartment. Then, the spacecraft will hearth its thrusters and again off to a protected distance.
Osiris-REX descends to the floor of asteroid Bennu to acquire a pattern of nice-grained materials from web site Nightingale utilizing its TAGSAM instrument.NASA / Goddard / CI LabAfter retreating, a detailed-vary digital camera often known as SAMCAM will picture the sampling mechanism. Then, since it isn’t doable to place a pattern on a scale i n house, the spacecraft itself will spin to weigh what it has collected. The mission is trying to collect at least 60 grams (2 oz) of fabric, in regards to the mass of a C-battery. The subsequent samplings, if required, will happen later this yr.
After imaging the TAGSAM head, Osiris-REX will carry out a spin maneuver with its TAGSAM arm prolonged to decide the mass of the collected pattern.NASA / Goddard / CI LabOnce verification is full, the arm will fold in to stow the pattern onboard:
Following assortment, OSIRIS-REx will stow its pattern of asteroid Bennu for return to Earth in September 2023.NASA / Goddard / CI Lab The Long Return Home
Osiris-REX is scheduled to depart Bennu on March 3, 2021. The spacecraft will convey its samples again to Earth, ejecting the pattern return container throughout an Earth flyby on September 24, 2023. The capsule will reenter over the Utah Test and Training Range for restoration.
Like the Apollo lunar samples, materials from Bennu might be obtainable for researchers to analyze for many years to come. Once again on Earth, it will likely be NASA’s largest pattern return from one other world for the reason that Apollo period.
Diamond-shape Bennu resembles one other not too long ago explored asteroid: 162173 Ryugu, visited by Japan’s Hayabusa 2. That mission is now en route to Earth with its personal pattern, which it’s going to ship in December this yr.
Meanwhile, make certain to watch as NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission makes historical past!