The spacecraft traveled over 200 million miles and 4 years to briefly stumble upon Bennu, blast it with compressed gasoline and gather bits of its floor. On Oct. 21, the area company shared the primary batch of photographs from the daring operation, revealing a fragile but explosive second between rock and robotic.
When the spacecraft’s robotic sampling arm, named Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or Tagsam, touched down on Bennu, it carried out what quantities to a cosmic pickpocketing maneuver. Mission planners anticipated that the entire time of contact between the arm and asteroid can be lower than 16 seconds. When preliminary data was released, it confirmed that the interval of contact was simply six seconds, with a lot of the pattern assortment taking place in solely the primary three.
The spacecraft, which operates largely autonomously because of the 18-minute communications delay with mission management on Earth, fired a canister of gasoline by way of Tagsam that disrupted the floor of Bennu and compelled a pattern into the arm’s collector head.
Photographs taken of the top on Oct. 22 confirmed that a lot pattern was collected that some bigger rocks appeared to fail to make all of it the way in which inside, wedging a mylar flap meant to seal the container partially open, permitting some small bits of mud and pebbles to flee again out into area.
Pattern stowage was initially scheduled for Nov. 2, however NASA as an alternative moved the multiple-day process as much as Tuesday.
“The abundance of fabric we collected from Bennu made it doable to expedite our choice to stow,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator on the College of Arizona, in an announcement.
Osiris-Rex tags a boulder
Because the spacecraft approached after which spent two years orbiting and surveying Bennu, it turned clear this tiny world is completely different from what scientists anticipated. The staff hoped to search out a lot of sandy surfaces excellent for sampling, nevertheless it seems Bennu is a rubble pile, with a rugged terrain strewn with boulders.
Round 24 hours after the operation, NASA shared the first images of the landing operation captured by the spacecraft. The Tagsam strikes into place and its sampling head makes contact with Bennu’s floor earlier than the explosive burst of nitrogen is fired. The operation kicks up a ton of particles that flies across the acquisition arm. It is actually one thing!
Though the above GIF seems comparatively quick, the operation proceeded rather more delicately. The arm was lowered at round 10 centimeters per second, a lot slower than strolling tempo, when it contacted the pattern web site.
The staff’s purpose is to gather about 60 grams of mud, filth and pebbles from the floor of Bennu. It reported on Oct. 23 that it believes Osiris-Rex collected a ample pattern and moved to start to stow it rapidly, skipping a deliberate pattern mass measurement and canceling a braking burn to maintain acceleration of the spacecraft to a minimal.
“We’re working to maintain up with our personal success right here, and my job is to soundly return as giant a pattern of Bennu as doable,” stated Lauretta.
Whereas the process to assemble the pattern was executed autonomously by the spacecraft, stowing the pattern is a far slower, step-by-step course of with mission management sending instructions and evaluating the outcomes earlier than continuing to the subsequent step.
The mission joins Japan’s Hayabusa andwithin the annals of asteroid exploration. Hayabusa sampled and returned a tiny bit of fabric from asteroid Itokawa, and Hayabusa2 is within the technique of returning a major pattern of area rock Ryugu.
With the pattern now stowed on Osiris-Rex, the staff will start preparations for an extended journey again to Earth, with a deliberate touchdown within the Utah desert in September 2023.