NASA’s Osiris-Rex prepares to capture a piece of asteroid Benno: How to See It First-Hand

Artistic rendition of NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft collecting a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

NASA’s Osiris Rex spacecraft It will briefly land a large asteroid on Tuesday and will pick up some rocks and dust from its surface to bring it back to Earth for study. The event represents a NASA’s first pioneer And a potential boon to science, space exploration and our understanding of the solar system. Lockheed Martin Space will be broadcasting the daring mission live and we have everything you need to know here about what is going to happen and how to watch it.

A sampling collection of a touch and launch asteroid 101955 Pino It is scheduled to go down on Tuesday Oct 20 at around 3:12 PM PDT. NASA will broadcast the TAG exercise live on NASA TV and Agency website Starting at 2 PM PDT on Tuesday. You can find the live broadcast link below.

When did the mission start?

The Osiris-Rex concept has been around since at least 2004, when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA. After more than a decade of development, the spacecraft It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 8, 2016, Above the Atlas V missile from the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft spent the next 26 months sailing to Benno, and officially arrived on December 3, 2018.

Since then, the mission team has spent nearly two years orbiting a space rock in the shape of a diamond, surveying and mapping its surface to choose the best sampling location. In recent months, training has started before the next sampling attempt, and now the team says it’s ready to play TAG with Bennu.

Why Benno?

Bennu is a so-called “pile of rubble” asteroid, meaning that it formed in the deep cosmic past when gravity slowly pushed the remnants of an ancient collision together. The result is an object shaped like a rotating summit about a third of a mile (500 meters) in diameter and a surface strewn with large rocks and boulders.

Bennu is believed to be a window into the solar system’s past: an original carbon-rich body that holds the building blocks of both planets and life. Some of these resources, such as water and minerals, could be worth mining at some time in the future for use on Earth or in space exploration.

The asteroid has another property that makes it particularly interesting to scientists and humans in general – it has a chance to affect Earth in the distant future. On NASA’s List of Impact Hazards, Bennu is second. Current data shows dozens of potential impacts in the last quarter of the 22nd century, even though everyone has only a fine chance of actually overcoming them.

How will the TAG work?

For anyone who has been immersed in robotics or perhaps entered a robotics competition, the Osiris-Rex mission appears to be the ultimate culmination of the dreams of the young robotics scientist. Performing touch-and-go sampling is a complex and high-risk task that has been developing into a major climactic moment for years. If it succeeds, it will play a role in history and our future in space.

The basic plan is for Osiris Rex to land on Bennu at a rock Landing site called the nightingale. The truck-sized spacecraft will need to negotiate building-sized rocks around the landing area to land on a relatively clear area of ​​little more than a few parking space. However, the robotic sampling arm would be the only part of the Osiris-Rex to actually surface. It will fire one of three pressurized nitrogen cans to move a sample of dust and small rocks that can get stuck in the head of the boom collector for safe keeping and back to ground.

It would take about four hours to descend to the surface of Benno, which is the time for the asteroid to make one complete revolution. After this slow approach, the actual TAG sample collection takes less than 16 s.

Preparation for the TAG did not go exactly as planned. Mission organizers initially hoped that on the roof of Benno there were many potential landing sites covered primarily with fine materials that could be compared with sand or gravel. The Bennu deck turned out to be very rugged and had no real welcome landings.

After spending most of the past two years reassessing the mission, the team decided to try to “drill the needle” across the boulder-strewn landscape of Nightingale and a couple of other reserve specimen sites. The surface could still be too rocky for a good sample. If this is the case, the team may choose to try again at a different location. The Osiris-Rex is equipped with three nitrogen cans to fire and disrupt the surface, which means the team gets up to three attempts at sample capture.

so what?

Immediately after his sample is collected, Osiris-Rex will fire his batch to move away from Bennu. The spacecraft will continue to fly over Benno for the rest of 2020 before it finally performs a departure maneuver next year and begins its two-year return journey to Earth.

On September 24, 2023, Osiris-Rex is set to abandon its sample return capsule, which will land in the Utah desert and be retrieved for study.

Hasn’t this been done before?

Yeah. The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa successfully returned small pellets from Asteroid 25143 Itokawa To Earth in 2010. Its successor is Hayabusa-2, It fired a special copper bullet at the large asteroid Ryugu in 2019 Then they recovered some shrapnel. This specimen is on its way to Earth.

How can I watch?

Follow Live NASA broadcast, Which kicks off on Tuesday 2 p.m. PDT. You can also follow Osiris-Rex Twitter feed To get the latest updates.

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