NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is about to touch an asteroid


Once Benue is sampled, it will return to an orbit around the asteroid, so it can tag along while the rock makes its annual journey around the Sun. Benue is the smallest object orbited by a spacecraft, and placing a stationary orbit around something brings all sorts of challenges that are not involved in orbiting a planet. It only takes a small amount of energy to achieve the escape velocity – a human who is standing on the surface of Benue can jump from it – meaning to do everything very slowly to OSIRIS-REX Will if he doesn’t want to fly in space.

“Berneau’s gravitational acceleration is very small,” says Kenny Getzandner, OSIRIS-REX flight dynamics manager. “During the descent, we would come down at a rate of about 10 centimeters per second, which is about the level that Beanu was spitting on us to start. Slow downing gives us plenty of time to update navigation, but it is also inherently dynamic of the situation. ”

Next March, Benue will pass closest to Earth for the next six years, and OSIRIS-REX will use this window to disintegrate from the asteroid and begin its journey back home. The spacecraft will make its booking at a rate of about 100,000 mph, but even at that speed it will take about a year and a half to catch up with the Earth.

OSIRIS-REx will orient itself on a trajectory with the Earth. But a few hours before it would enter the atmosphere, in September 2023, it would recreate the sample return capsule and perform a deflection maneuver that would save the spacecraft, orbiting it into the Sun. Meanwhile, the capsule will go into the atmosphere at a speed of 27,000 mph. Fisher says the 2-foot-wide capsule is protected by the same heat shield as those safely returned from NASA’s Stardust mission via the comet’s tail. The OSIRIS-REx team expects it to land under parachute at the Utah Test and Training Range, a military armament facility outside Salt Lake, where it can be tracked during its descent.

“We are much thicker and faster than astronauts coming back from the International Space Station,” says Loretta. “So the samples will be shaken, and one thing that I worry about is that there might be some fragmentation of the material during the reentry. But there is really no way of avoiding it.”

If enough propellant is left, OSIRIS-REx may be able to expand its mission and do more science, otherwise it will be left to die in solar orbit. Getzandner states that the team is now focused on the main mission, but does not rule out the possibility of mission expansion. “Once OSIRIS-REX closes the capsule, we will have a very capable spacecraft that will surely be able to complete another mission,” says Getzandner. “Once we get through touch-and-go, we can start thinking about extended missions and work on that some more.”

Once the asteroid samples are returned, scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center will list them and place a stack of material, quickly study it, and burn a part of it to protect an unknown in New Mexico Will be sent to a safe location They will divide it into research groups around the world, including partners from Japanese and Canadian space agencies, who both contributed to the mission. Japan, which has successfully launched two asteroid sample-return missions, has shared data and techniques that help shape the OSIRIS-REx mission. Researchers in Canada contributed a laser altimeter, which is used to measure how wide the spacecraft is to orbit the asteroid and explain its surface.

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