Planets and Moons  ID: 4771

OSIRIS-REx – Asteroid Bennu Sample Site Flyovers

There is a newer version of this story located here:
When NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018, its close-up images confirmed what mission planners had predicted nearly two decades before: Bennu is made of loose material weakly clumped together by gravity, and shaped like a spinning top. This major validation, however, was accompanied by a major surprise. Scientists had expected Bennu’s surface to consist of fine-grained material like a sandy beach, but instead OSIRIS-REx was greeted by a rugged world littered with boulders – the size of cars, the size of houses, the size of football fields.

The main science goal of OSIRIS-REx is to briefly touch down on Bennu and collect a sample for return to Earth, but the asteroid’s unexpected roughness could pose a hazard to the spacecraft. Areas for safely touching down are fewer and smaller than anticipated, and OSIRIS-REx will have to navigate to them with unprecedented accuracy.

In mid-2019, mission planners identified four candidate sample collection sites, and named them after birds that can be found in Egypt: Osprey, Kingfisher, Nightingale, and Sandpiper. In December 2019, mission planners announced that they had selected Nightingale as the primary sample collection site, and Osprey as the backup. Late in 2020, OSIRIS-REx will descend to Bennu's surface and collect a sample of pristine material from the origins of the solar system that will be studied on Earth for decades to come.

The 3D animations on this page were created using laser altimetry data and imagery of Bennu taken by OSIRIS-REx. The animations are available in Hyperwall resolution (5760x3240).

Used Elsewhere In

Newer Version

Older Version


For More Information

Visualization Credits

Kel Elkins (USRA): Lead Visualizer
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer
Erin Morton (The University of Arizona): Communications Lead
Nancy Neal-Jones (NASA/GSFC): Communications Lead
Ian Jones (ADNET): Technical Support
Eric Sokolowsky (GST): Technical Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Data provided by NASA/University of Arizona/CSA/York University/MDA.

Short URL to share this page:


Data Used:
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

SVS >> Asteroid
SVS >> Elevation data
SVS >> Imaging
SVS >> Orbit
SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Solar System >> Orbits
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Bennu
SVS >> Transfer Orbit
SVS >> Map
SVS >> Sample Return
SVS >> Animations
SVS >> Mapping
SVS >> Maneuver
SVS >> Site
SVS >> Candidate