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OSIRIS-REx makes a final close approach to the asteroid before returning to Earth



Washington — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will conduct a final containment process on the asteroids sampled from it next week before returning to Earth.

On April 7, the spacecraft will pass 3.7 kilometers above the location of the asteroid Bennu named Nightingale, where the spacecraft briefly landed in October and collected hundreds of grams of material. The matter is now stored in the spacecraft.

After the sample collection operation, the mission did not plan to return to the vicinity of Bennu. However, NASA decided to make a final pass to the landing site to see what changes were brought about by sampling the Nightingale area, such as the formation of craters.

“We sat down and conducted a risk assessment. We thought that the risk was very low and the scientific return was very important. Therefore, we have to go back and look at the location to see if the crater can be identified. Online Planetary Science Conference.

He predicted that the site should not only have one crater, but there should be as many as five craters: one is generated by the sampling mechanism, and the other is launched by the propeller on the spacecraft, which will prevent the spacecraft from falling when launched. And pull it off the ground. He said: “All interactions with the surface should have five or some three-dimensional patterns.”

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The analysis of the data collected by the sampling mechanism (the end of the robotic arm protruding from the bottom of the spacecraft) on October 20 was much deeper than expected. Before the spacecraft stopped descending and began to move upward, the sampling head dropped 48.8 cm below the ground.

He said: “On the surface, it didn’t slow us down at all.” “If we don’t launch the retreat thruster, we might sink within a few meters of the asteroid’s surface, which is fascinating.”

Soon after the sample was collected, the image showed that some material leaked from the sampling head. This has resulted in the task speeding up the work of encapsulating the sample collection unit, which will store it during its return to Earth.

Lauretat said: “From collecting samples to storing our samples, we will definitely lose tens of grams of samples.” “We are still confident that there are a lot of materials in the return capsule to prepare for home.

Due to the increased workload of loading the sampling head, the mission did not attempt to accurately measure how much material has been loaded by rotating the spacecraft and measuring the difference between the moment of inertia before the sampling operation. However, visual estimation of the sampling head indicated that it contained at least a few hundred grams of substance. He said: “We feel that what we have collected greatly exceeds the 60-gram requirement.”

The overflight of Nightingale base will be the last time OSIRIS-REx approached Bennu. The spacecraft will return to Earth on May 10 and arrive on September 24, 2023. The capsule containing these samples will land in the Utah desert. He said: “We are very happy to bring these samples into our laboratory and learn about Bennu and the history of the solar system.”


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