OSIRIS-REx Launches Asteroid Mission

OSIRIS-REx Launches Asteroid Mission

After a 2-year trip, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid spacecraft last week first spotted asteroid Bennu and began a final approach to the target. On August 17, the PolyCam camera took pictures from a distance of 2.2. million km

OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first near-earth asteroid mission. She must inspect the surface, obtain the sample and safely deliver it to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled about 1.8 billion km since its launch on September 8, 2016. He is due to arrive at Bennu on December 3rd.

OSIRIS-REx is now at a sufficiently close distance for observation, so over the next months, it will gain more knowledge about the size, shape, surface characteristics, and environment of Bennu. As we get closer, the device activates scientific tools for data collection and preparation for arrival. The scientific payload includes an OCAMS camera, an OTES thermal imaging spectrometer, an OVIRS visual and IR spectrometer, an OLA laser altimeter, and a REXIS X-ray spectrometer.

On August 17, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft produced the first images of the Bennu target asteroid at a distance of 2.2 million km (6 times the Earth-Moon distance). A set of 5 images were captured on a PolyCam camera during the hour when they were calibrating The OSIRIS-REx approach will be:

  • regularly monitor the area around the asteroid to search for dust streams and natural satellites, as well as to study the light and spectral properties of Bennu.
  • to conduct a series of four maneuvers, starting from October 1, slowing the ship in accordance with the Bennu orbit around the Sun.
  • Reset the protective cover in mid-October.
  • use OCAMS to reveal the general shape of the asteroid at the end of October and begin to look for the Bennu surface features in mid-November.

After arrival, the ship will spend the first month making flights over the North Pole, the equator and the South Pole at a distance of 19-7 km from the asteroid. These maneuvers will allow Bennu's first direct mass measurement, as well as large-scale surface surveys.

Bennu in diameter covers 500 m, which is why it will become the smallest object that the spacecraft was approaching. OSIRIS-REx will conduct a global study of the asteroid before identifying two possible sampling sites. Sampling is scheduled for early July 2020. The return of the ship is expected in September 2023.

The overall mission management is performed at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

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