REx Attempts to Collect Sample of Near-Earth Asteroid Bennu | Space Exploration

21 Octobre, 2020, 23:57 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Learn about the details of NASA’s mission to land on the

The area, which is 52 feet in diameter, will make for a more demanding landing than expected, Kenneth Getzandanner, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics manager at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the news conference.

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.

It extended the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist of its 3.35-m (11-foot-) sampling arm, known as the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and transited across the asteroid while descending about 805 m (2,641 feet) toward the surface. The low gravity of Bennu allowed the craft to tap the surface at a carefully chosen location known as Nightingale.

The landing was also carried out after commands previously sent by ground controllers near Denver to direct OSIRIS-REx, and this is the first time the United States has collected samples from an asteroid and the results will be extraordinary, because Bennu contains material from the early Solar System. All we can say is that the mechanism worked perfectly after coming in contact with Bennu.

"The fact that we safely and successfully touched the surface of Bennu, in addition to all the other milestones this mission has already achieved, is a testament to the living spirit of exploration that continues to uncover the secrets of the solar system", Planetary Science Division director Lori Glaze adds. How much dust around the sample collector head, and inside it, could give the team a decent idea of the sample size. SDL built the camera electronics for a three-camera suite onboard OSIRIS-REx named OCAMS.

While the spacecraft's October mission was a historic success for NASA, the probe may have to meet up with Bennu again. However, there is no guarantee that it has been able to collect the sample in the first go. The main objective of the study is to collect only 60 grams of sample.

Learn about the details of NASA’s mission to land on the

Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission - in the milligrams at most - to land in the Australian desert in December.

Here's an animation of what yesterday's sample gathering attempt looks like. The objective is to collect a sample of at least 60 g.

A couple of days after the SamCam images are analysed, the spacecraft will attempt yet another method to measure the mass of the sample collected by determining the change in the spacecraft's "moment of inertia", a phrase that describes how mass is distributed and how it affects the rotation of the body around a central axis. To do this, the TAGSAM will be extended and the spacecraft rotated slowly along an axis perpendicular to the arm.

"We will use the combination of data from TAG and the post-TAG images and mass measurement to assess our confidence that we have collected at least 60 grams of sample", said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx Project Manager at Goddard. If they are confident, then, the samples will be stowed on October 30. All in all, the craft took the samples it set out to obtain, although we don't clearly know how much material the probe recovered right away. MapCam was responsible for searching the asteroid for a suitable place to collect the sample. At contact, the spacecraft fired nitrogen gas onto the surface to roil up dust and small pebbles, which were then captured.

The spacecraft is expected to return to Earth, with the regolith sample from Bennu, in 2023. When it reaches Earth, in September 2024, the spacecraft will eject the SRC which will then parachute down into the west desert of the USA state of Utah, where it will be collected.

Tuesday's operation was considered the most harrowing part of the mission, which began with a launch from Cape Canaveral back in 2016.

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