NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft to go see ‘the disaster it caused’

The moment Osiris-Rex touched the surface of Bennu.

NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

In October 2020, NASA The Osiris-Rex spacecraft bit the asteroid Bennu. Before Osiris-Rex returns to Earth to deliver his bounty, he will revisit the scene of the heist.

The asteroid research spacecraft will make one last very close flyby of Bennu to discover “the extent of the disaster it caused,” NASA announced Thursday.

Osiris-Rex was a bit greedy during the sample capture operation, collecting a overflowing amount of gravel that had to be put away earlier than expected. It left a mark on the asteroid.

“The Osiris-Rex team decided to add this latest flyover after Bennu’s surface was significantly disturbed by the sample collection event,” NASA said. “During landing, the spacecraft’s sampling head sank 1.6 feet (48.8 centimeters) into the asteroid’s surface and simultaneously fired a pressurized charge of nitrogen gas.” The thrusters fired to push Osiris-Rex back also disturbed the surface.

NASA has scheduled the flyover for April 7 with the goal of capturing images of the collection site from a close distance of just 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) away.

Osiris-Rex will continue to prowl Bennu until May 10, when he will begin a two-year return journey to Earth. The Bennu fragments will be delivered to scientists via a sample return capsule that will be dropped by the spacecraft.

Meanwhile, NASA will be able to compare the before and after images from the sample site to see how big the Osiris-Rex tattoo is on Bennu.

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