NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24, to provide an update on the agency’s first attempt to contact the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will travel to the asteroid’s surface during its first sample collection attempt Oct. 20. Its sampling mechanism will touch Bennu’s surface for several seconds, fire a charge of pressurized nitrogen to disturb the surface, and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away.
Participating in this mission update are:
• Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
• Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division
• Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson
• Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
• Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin Space
Top Left: OSIRIS-REx Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket on September 8, 2016 at 7:05 pm EDT.
Top Right: Image of Bennu was taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
Center: Image of sample site Nightingale Crater, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu, overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site.
Bottom Left: Image of OSIRIS-REx’s SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches asteroid Bennu’s surface, taking during the second dress rehearsal for sample collection on August 11, 2020.
Bottom Center: Illustration of trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Checkpoint rehearsal, which was the first time the mission practiced the initial steps of collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu.
Bottom Right: Image of Sierra Gonzalez, Lockheed Martin Systems Engineer, taken April 14, 2020 during the four-hour rehearsal of the Checkpoint maneuver in which OSIRIS-REx came within 125 meters (410 feet) of Bennu’s surface.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/ Lockheed Martin/United Launch Alliance
Top Left: Apollo sample processors (from left to right) Andrea Mosie, Charis Krysher and Juliane Gross open lunar sample 73002 at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Moon rocks inside this tube have remained untouched since they were collected on the surface and brought to Earth by Apollo astronauts nearly 50 years ago.
Top Right: Scientist-astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, collects lunar rake samples at Station 1 during the mission's first spacewalk at the Taurus-Littrow landing site.
Center: Illustration showing NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descending towards asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of the asteroid’s surface.
Bottom Left: Illustration of NASA’s DART spacecraft prior to impact at the Didymos binary system.
Bottom Center: Illustration of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft performing a flyby of a Jupiter Trojan.
Bottom Right: Illustration of NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft with Five-Panel Array.
Credits: NASA/Goddard/JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University/University of Arizona/Johns Hopkins APL/Space Systems Loral/James Blair/Steve Gribben/Peter Rubin
This rotating mosaic of asteroid Bennu is composed of 40 images captured by the PolyCam imager onboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft over a four-hour period on December 2, 2018. During the observation period, the spacecraft’s range to the center of the asteroid decreased from about 15.3 to 14.6 miles (24.6 to 23.5 km).
Captured on August 11, 2020 during the second rehearsal of the OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample collection event, this series of images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches asteroid Bennu’s surface. The rehearsal brought the spacecraft through the first three maneuvers of the sampling sequence to a point approximately 131 feet (40 meters) above the surface, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn.
This artist concept animation shows a size comparison of the planned sample collection area before arriving at Bennu (orange), and after arriving at Bennu (blue). The original mission plan envisioned a sample site with a diameter of 164 feet (50 m). However, the sampling region for site Nightingale is approximately 26 ft (8 m) in diameter. The area safe enough for the spacecraft to touch is the width of a few parking spaces.
During its descent to site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx could encounter several hazardous scenarios that would prevent it from collecting a sample of asteroid Bennu on its first attempt, including: Wave-Off, TAG on a boulder, and TAG on rocks.