NASA’s OSIRIS-REx completed its last flyby of Bennu around 6 am EDT (4 am MDT) on April 7 and is now slowly moving away from the asteroid; However, the mission team will have to wait a few more days to find out how the spacecraft changed Bennu’s surface when it took a sample of the asteroid.
The OSIRIS-REx team added this flyby to document surface changes resulting from the October Touch and Go (TAG) sample collection maneuver. February 20, 2020. “By studying the distribution of excavated material around the TAG site, we will learn more about the nature of the surface and subsurface materials along with the mechanical properties of the asteroid,” said Dr. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator at the University of Arizona.
During the flyby, OSIRIS-REx imaged Bennu for 5.9 hours, covering more than one complete rotation of the asteroid. It flew 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers) from the surface of Bennu, the closest it has been since the TAG sample collection event.
It will take until at least April 13 for OSIRIS-REx to download all data and new images of Bennu’s surface recorded during the flyby. You share the Deep Space Network antennas with other missions like Mars Perseverance and typically get 4-6 hours of downlink time per day.
“We collected about 4,000 megabytes of data during the flyby,” said Mike Moreau, deputy director of OSIRIS-REx projects at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Bennu is approximately 185 million miles from Earth at the moment, which means we can only achieve a data rate of 412 kilobits per second, so it will take several days to download all the flyby data.”
Once the mission team receives the images and other data from the instruments, they will study how OSIRIS-REx mixed with Bennu’s surface. During the landing, the spacecraft’s sampling head plunged 48.8 centimeters (1.6 feet) into the asteroid’s surface and simultaneously fired a pressurized charge of nitrogen gas. The spacecraft’s thrusters lifted a large amount of material off the surface during the recoil combustion, throwing rocks and dust in the process.
OSIRIS-REx, with its precious and pristine cargo of asteroids, will remain in the vicinity of Bennu until May 10, when it will ignite its thrusters and begin its two-year cruise home. The mission will deliver the asteroid sample to Earth on September 24, 2023.
Science and technology, news about asteroid and comet missions
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OSIRIS-REx is ready for final observation before heading to Earth
Tucson AZ (SPX) April 2, 2021
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is about to discover the extent of the disaster it caused on the surface of the asteroid Bennu during the sample collection event last fall. On April 7, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will have one last close encounter with Bennu as it makes a final flyby to capture images of the asteroid’s surface. While making the flyby, the spacecraft will observe Bennu from a distance of about 2.3 miles (3.7 km), the closest it has been since the Touch-and-Go sample collection event on October 4. 20, … read more