Before-and-after of asteroid Bennu’s sample site |

Because it made its final flyover of asteroid Bennu on April 7, 2021, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft peered all the way down to seize a picture of the aftermath of its encounter with the asteroid, late final 12 months. On its YouTube web page, NASA in contrast the left by OSIRIS-REx on Bennu to “boot prints on .” And, as you possibly can see within the video above – and within the animation on the finish of this publish – the spacecraft did depart its mark when it touched down on asteroid Bennu and picked up its pattern on October 20, 2020.

Asteroid Bennu’s floor was altered in 3 ways by OSIRIS-REx. The primary was the pressure of OSIRIS-REx’s landing, which disturbed the rocks and soil beneath. The second was the sampling mechanism blowing gasoline into a group filter. The third was the spacecraft’s back-away thrusters because it kicked off Bennu’s floor, with its pattern in tow.

OSIRIS-REx is the primary NASA mission to go to a near-Earth asteroid and gather a pattern to return to Earth. To realize an “after” photograph that compares to the March 2019 picture, a crew of scientists needed to decide one of the best time and angle for the flyby. As Dathon Golish, a member of the OSIRIS-REx crew on the of Arizona, defined:

Bennu is tough and rocky, so in the event you have a look at it from a special angle or seize it at a time when the solar will not be immediately overhead, that dramatically modifications what the floor seems to be like. These photographs have been intentionally taken near midday, with the solar shining straight down, when there’s not as many shadows. These weren’t within the unique mission plan, so we have been excited to return and doc what we did. The crew actually pulled collectively for this one final hurrah.

OSIRIS-REx will stay at Bennu till Could 10, 2021, when it’ll start its two-year-long return journey to Earth, with its valuable cargo on board. Upon reaching Earth, the return pattern will likely be jettisoned from the spacecraft in its personal little pod known as the Pattern Return Capsule. The capsule will deploy a parachute in Earth’s ambiance and land on the Utah Check and Coaching Vary on September 24, 2023, if all the pieces goes in accordance with plan. Then scientists will be capable to research the fabric from asteroid Bennu and be taught extra concerning the formation of our photo voltaic .

Rocky surface with one rock circled in red, and red X in middle of slightly dark round area.

Within the animation above, you possibly can see Bennu’s floor earlier than and after the OSIRIS-REx . The spacecraft acquired the primary on March 7, 2019, and the second on April 7, 2021. See the purple circle? It’s exhibiting you a boulder that was blown 40 toes (12 meters) from its unique spot on the asteroid’s floor, as OSIRIS-REx carried out a touch-down maneuver that allow it gather its pattern on October 20, 2020. The purple X within the after picture targets the disturbed location the place the spacecraft collected materials. Picture through NASA/ Goddard/ College of Arizona.

Backside : Throughout its closing flyby on April 7, 2021, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft took a picture of the placement the place it collected a pattern from asteroid Bennu’s floor, greater than a 12 months in the past. It’ll return to Earth two years from now to ship its asteroid pattern, in order that scientists can be taught extra concerning the creation of our photo voltaic system.


Kelly Kizer Whitt

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