NASA’S “OSIRIS-Rex” spacecraft will finally touchdown on the Asteroid Bennu surface on October 20 for its first sample collection attempt after spending over a year in orbit. It will be the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it to Earth.
The OSIRIS-Rex (Origins, Spectral interpretation, Research identification, Regolith Explorer) is a NASA asteroid study and sample return mission. The primary goal of the mission is to obtain a sample of least 60 grams (2.1 oz) from 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid and return the sample to Earth for a detailed analysis.
NASA’s associate administrator of science Thomas Zurbuchen said “The OSIRIS-REx mission has been demonstrating the very essence of exploration by persevering through an unexpected challenge.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first asteroid sample return mission for NASA and the OSIRIS-Rex team has the challenge of performing under the restrictions. Therefore, missions of such excellence require extensive preparation as unexpected challenges also need to be accounted for.
However, the mission’s final rehearsal and the first sample collection attempt originally were programmed for June and August respectively. But now it has been rescheduled to August 11 and October 20.
Lately, OSIRIS-REX completed a rehearsal in preparation for the landing. The spacecraft was taken to an altitude of 213ft (65m) to test its navigation, imaging and ranging systems worked as they should during descent.
During the OSIRIS-Rex final rehearsal, it will be brought to an approximate altitude of 131ft (40m) over the bennu’s surface. The NASA OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft will drop to asteroid bennu’s surface and collect material, from the primary sample site nightingale. There will be no further attempts done, if the spacecraft is able to collect a “sufficient sample” during its first attempt and then scheduled to leave the asteroid bennu’s surface sooner or later in mid-21 after which it will eventually arrive on earth on Sept 24, 2023.