NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is on the point of discovering the extent of the mess it made on asteroid Bennu’s floor throughout final fall’s pattern assortment occasion. On Apr. 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will get one final shut encounter with Bennu because it performs a closing flyover to seize pictures of the asteroid’s floor. Whereas performing the flyover, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.Three miles (3.7 km)—the closest it has been for the reason that Contact-and-Go Pattern Assortment occasion on Oct. 20, 2020.
The OSIRIS-REx group determined so as to add this final flyover after Bennu’s floor was considerably disturbed by the pattern assortment occasion. Throughout landing, the spacecraft’s sampling head sunk 1.6 ft (48.eight centimeters) into the asteroid’s floor and concurrently fired a pressurized cost of nitrogen fuel. The spacecraft’s thrusters additionally mobilized a considerable quantity of floor materials through the back-away burn. As a result of Bennu’s gravity is so weak, these numerous forces from the spacecraft had a dramatic impact on the pattern web site—launching most of the area’s rocks and lots of mud within the course of. This closing flyby of Bennu will present the mission group a possibility to find out how the spacecraft’s contact with Bennu’s floor altered the pattern web site and the area surrounding it.
The one flyby will mimic one of many statement sequences performed through the mission’s Detailed Survey section in 2019. OSIRIS-REx will picture Bennu for five.9 hours, which is simply over a full rotation interval of the asteroid. Inside this timeframe, the spacecraft’s PolyCam imager will receive high-resolution pictures of Bennu’s northern and southern hemispheres and its equatorial area. The group will then examine these new pictures with the earlier high-resolution imagery of the asteroid obtained throughout 2019.
Many of the spacecraft’s different science devices may also accumulate information through the flyover, together with the MapCam imager, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES), the OSIRIS-REx Seen and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS), and the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA). Exercising these devices will give the group an opportunity to evaluate the present state of every science instrument onboard the spacecraft, as mud coated the devices through the pattern assortment occasion. Understanding the well being of the devices can also be a part of NASA’s analysis of potential prolonged mission alternatives after the pattern is delivered to Earth.
After the Bennu flyby, it’s going to take a number of days for the info from the flyover to be downlinked to Earth. As soon as the info are downlinked, the group will examine the pictures to grasp how OSIRIS-REx disturbed the asteroid’s floor materials. At this level, the group may also be capable to consider the efficiency of the science devices.
The spacecraft will stay in asteroid Bennu’s neighborhood till Could 10, when the mission will enter its Return Cruise section and start its two-year journey again to Earth. Because it approaches Earth, the spacecraft will jettison the Pattern Return Capsule (SRC) that comprises the rocks and dirt collected from Bennu. The SRC will then journey via the Earth’s ambiance and land beneath parachutes on the Utah Check and Coaching Vary on Sep. 24, 2023.
As soon as recovered, the capsule will likely be transported to the curation facility on the company’s Johnson Area Heart in Houston, the place the pattern will likely be eliminated for distribution to laboratories worldwide, enabling scientists to check the formation of our photo voltaic system and Earth as a liveable planet.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx to fly a farewell tour of Bennu
NASA OSIRIS-REx’s closing asteroid statement run (2021, April 1)
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