WEB EXTRA: First Pictures from Asteroid Bennu

Pablo Tucker
October 26, 2020

NASA is celebrating tonight after its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully touched the Bennu asteroid in a bid to collect rock and dust samples from its surface. If there's enough material, the sample will be transferred to a secure reentry capsule, which will be the only part of OSIRIS-REx that will ultimately return to the surface of the Earth.

Upon initial contact, the head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it. However, the interaction between the asteroid and the spacecraft only lasted about 6 seconds.

NASA shared footage of the recently completed Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event on asteroid Bennu. Because Bennu was a rock-covered meteor, the slightest mistake could cause the vacuum arm of the OSIRIS-REx to break.

It proceeded to orbit Bennu to take images and perform analysis of the asteroid's make-up.

The OSIRIS-REx mission stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. The craft sent data and images to the mission team overnight.

The spacecraft then transited across the asteroid while descending about 805 metres towards the surface. The area the spacecraft subsequently touched upon was termed "Nightingale".


Yes. Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft successfully returned small grains Star 25143 Itokawa Its successor, Hayabusa-2, In 2019, Hurricane Katrina fired a special copper bullet at Ryugu And then got some shrapnel.

The sample collection process was a carefully coordinated dance.

Come on, NASA, that celebration could have used more spice. "Our industry, academic, and global partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands".

This artist's rendering shows the spacecraft on approach to touchdown for sample collection. "If our confidence is high, we'll make the decision to stow the sample on October 30".

Any sample collected by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is expected to arrive on Earth in 2023. This TAG event would occur on January 12, 2021. It shows SamCam imager's field of view as the NASA spacecraft backs away from asteroid Bennu's surface after touching down.

OSIRIS-REx is a van-sized spacecraft.


Bennu, a black pile of rubble that is about 0.5 kilometres wide and 290 million kilometres from Earth, could come dangerously close to our planet next century, although the chances of impact are very small. The first shots we have been treated to are from SamCam, the camera mounted on the sample collection arm, as it had the most direct view of the action. Hayabusa2 is likely to land on Earth in December this year. Other space agencies' asteroid-sampling missions have not been successful since.

Shortly after collecting its samples, Osiris-Rex sets fire to its thrusters to retreat from Benu.

"Diversity is the key to get the most out of this sample", Enos said. In addition, scientists hope that after researching these samples, they will learn how they should react to a meteorite that is inevitable to hit Earth. They don't expect to find life on the asteroid, which has been subjected to intense radiation, but the building blocks of life may be present in organic molecules and hydrated minerals on the asteroid.

Recently, scientists discovered that the fine material at the Nightingale site was only recently exposed to the space environment. This means that the material gathered by OSIRIS-REx will be some of the most pristine material on the asteroid. It has a lot of accessible fine-grained material, just what was needed for the mission. Below are our answers to all your questions about the mission.

"This was an incredible feat - and today we have advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the solar system", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters here. And only then will we begin to reveal the secrets that Bennu may hold. Now, NASA has released several videos showing exactly how that six-second collection process looked, and the best way to describe it is "controlled chaos".


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