The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will make the last flyby of the asteroid Bennu on Wednesday.
The spacecraft briefly landed on the asteroid on October 20, 2020, and collected samples weighing up to 2 ounces from the surface, thus making history.
The sample is safely hidden in the spacecraft and will return to Earth in 2023.
The OSIRIS-REx mission (officially named Origin, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) first reached the asteroid in December 2018 and has been operating ever since.
During the flyby on Wednesday, the spacecraft will get the last close-up of Bennu, capturing an image of the asteroid’s surface from a distance of only 2.3 miles. These images should reveal the aftermath of the October sample collection event, which is a mess.
When the sampling head of OSIRIS-REx sank 1
The gravity on the asteroid is very weak, so rocks and dust are emitted throughout the process.
Images taken by the spacecraft Wednesday will show scientists how much the sample collection event has changed the surface of the asteroid. The spacecraft will spend nearly six hours imaging Bennu, which will allow its camera to see a complete revolution of the asteroid.
OSIRIS-REx is familiar with this overflight route, and the route map performed similar operations when searching for landing sites during the 2019 survey. The images of 2019 will be used with the new images to compare before and after.
During the flight, OSIRIS-REx instruments will collect data, giving the mission team the opportunity to dust the tools during the collection process and evaluate them. After placing Bennu’s sample on Earth in September 2023, the spacecraft may perform an extended mission, so this assessment can help the team make this decision.
A few days after the flyby, all images and data will be sent back to the mission team so that they can analyze Bennu’s changes and evaluate the spacecraft’s instruments.
OSIRIS-REx will wander around Bennu until May 10, and then will begin a two-year, 200 million-mile journey back to Earth.
“When leaving near Bennu in May, the departure exercise will consume the least spacecraft fuel on board, which puts us in the’best position,'” said Michael OSIRIS-REx, deputy project manager at NASA Goddard Space Center in the Green Zone. Morrow said Maryland in a statement.
“Nevertheless, at a speed change of 593 miles per hour (265 meters per second), this will be OSIRIS-REx’s largest propulsion maneuver since entering Bennu in October 2018.”
Samples from asteroids may shed more light on the formation of the solar system and how elements such as water were transmitted to the early Earth through the impact of asteroids.
Once OSIRIS-REx arrives on Earth in 2023, it will abandon the capsule containing the sample, which will pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and parachute down to the Utah desert.
A team will prepare to retrieve the samples and transfer them to the aircraft hangar, which will be used as a temporary clean room. The samples will then be sent to the laboratory currently under construction at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA’s director of planetary science, Lori Glaze, said in a statement: “OSIRIS-REx has provided incredible science.” “We are really excited. The mission is to plan another observation flight of the asteroid Bennu. Provide new information on how the asteroid responds (touch-and-go sample collection events) and make an appropriate farewell.”