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NASA at last closes in on touchdown spot on messy, rocky asteroid Bennu – CNET

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This illustration demonstrates Osiris-Rex touching asteroid Bennu throughout a sample selection procedure.


NASA’s Goddard Room Flight Center

We know it can be finished. Japan’s Hayabusa-two spacecraft triumphantly scooped up a bit of asteroid Ryugu before heading household. NASA hopes it will soon have comparable accomplishment with the Osiris-Rex mission at present in home at asteroid Bennu. It truly is going to be hard.

NASA is days absent from picking out a sample web site for its intrepid spacecraft’s sample collection operation, the agency  introduced on Wednesday. It hasn’t been an effortless procedure. In July, NASA narrowed the selections down to 4 web sites with chicken-themed names: Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper.

These are the 4 probable sample sites on asteroid Bennu.


NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Osiris-Rex has been executing reconnaissance flybys of the web-sites, snagging substantial-resolution photos and giving its team lots of meals for thought.

Bennu is a much messier, rockier position than NASA expected. It is really littered with boulders, some of which are as massive as properties.

The agency experienced hoped to discover a roomy sandy spot cost-free of obstacles. “In reality the likely sample web pages are not huge, distinct areas, but rather little spaces surrounded by massive boulders, so navigating the spacecraft in and out of the websites will demand a little bit much more wonderful-tuning than initially planned,” explained NASA in a launch on Wednesday.

Osiris-Rex has a constructed-in protection technique that will abort the sample selection operate if the spacecraft detects a possible hazard. The trick will be navigating it down to Bennu’s area in a location that will not likely set off the system.

“If the spacecraft executes a wave-off though attempting to collect a sample, that basically implies that the two the group and the spacecraft have carried out their jobs to be certain the spacecraft can fly one more day. The good results of the mission is our to start with precedence,” explained deputy task manager Mike Moreau.

We are going to quickly know which chook will appear out on top. NASA will identify a most important and a backup website. Sample collection is scheduled for mid-2020. If all goes very well, Osiris-Rex will carry a little bit of Bennu back again to Earth in late 2023.

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