Planets and Moons  ID: 4795

OSIRIS-REx – Global Model of Asteroid Bennu

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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.

The 3D animations on this page were created using laser altimetry data and imagery of Bennu taken by OSIRIS-REx.

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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.

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Data Used:
The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) is a scanning LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). LIDAR is similar to RADAR, but it uses light instead of radio waves to measure distance. OLA will emit laser pulses at the surface of Bennu, which will reflect back from the surface and return a portion of the laser pulse to the LIDAR detector. By carefully measuring the time difference between the outgoing pulse and the incoming pulse, the distance the spacecraft and the surface of Bennu can be computed using the speed of light. This allows OLA to provide high-resolution topographical information about Bennu during the mission. OLA ranging measurements will also support other instruments and navigation and gravity analyses.
Observed Data
The OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) consists of three cameras: PolyCam, MapCam, and SamCam. These cameras will “see” asteroid Bennu as the spacecraft first approaches it. OCAMS will then provide global image mapping of Bennu’s surface and more detailed images of potential sample sites. Finally, OCAMS will record the entire sampling event during the touch-and-go (TAG) maneuver.
NASA/University of Arizona/CSA/York University/MDA
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
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SVS >> Transfer Orbit
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