NASA’s Asteroid Heist: The Challenges of TAG
NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, will make a daring attempt to “TAG” asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20 – touch its surface and collect a sample for return to Earth. Sample site Nightingale, the mission’s targeted touch down spot, is only a few parking spaces wide and surrounded by building-sized boulders that pose a hazard to OSIRIS-REx. The spacecraft will carefully navigate down to the sample site with its sampling arm extended and touch Bennu’s surface for several seconds. Upon contact, the collector head will fire a bottle of nitrogen gas to agitate loose material, which is then caught in the spacecraft’s collector head. After this brief touch, OSIRIS-REx will fire its thrusters to back away from Bennu, navigating to a safe distance from the asteroid. The spacecraft will depart Bennu in 2021 and deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center