After the excitement of the Insight landing on Mars earlier in the week – there is more space adventure in store next week. OSIRIS-REx arrives at near-Earth asteroid 101955 Bennu, on Monday.
NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) will make contact with Bennu at 1200 EST or 1700 Zulu.
There will be a live stream of the event at Nasa Live.
On Dec. 3, OSIRIS-REx will begin operations around the asteroid, passing over its north pole, south pole and equator at an altitude of only 6 km. This will allow the spacecraft to determine its mass, how fast it’s spinning and generate a model of the asteroid prior to retrieving a surface sample and returing it to planet Earth in 2023.
The journey for the asteroid-chasing OSIRIS-REx began back in September 2016 and three years later it’s finally close enough to tag the space rock. The spacecraft is equipped with five instruments and will survey the asteroid for a year, before selecting a site to retrieve a sample. OSIRIS-REx won’t touch down on the asteroid, like Japan’s Hayabusa 2 did earlier this year, instead opting to drop a lower pressure blower on an retractable arm (TAGSAM) onto the surface to suck up a sample for Earth return.
The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will provide a 3-D map of asteroid Bennu’s shape, which will allow scientists to understand the context of the asteroid’s geography and the sample location. OLA is provided by the Canadian Space Agency in exchange for Canadian ownership of a portion of the returned asteroid sample. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study.
The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature. OTES is the first such instrument built entirely on the Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe campus.
The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and near infrared light from the asteroid Bennu. The instrument’s observations could be used to identify water and organic materials.
The Regolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) instrument designed to image X-ray emission from Bennu in order to provide an elemental abundance map of the asteroid’s surface.
The TAGSAM arm will be responsible for collecting a sample from Bennu’s surface.