OSIRIS-REx Might Not Be Able To Collect Samples From Asteroid Bennu

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OSIRIS-REx, a spacecraft launched on September 8, 2016, has the mission of collecting samples from an asteroid called 101955, or Asteroid Bennu, and bring them to Earth in 2023 to be analyzed, as to find out how planets formed and how life began.

The mission is for OSIRIS to collect at least 60 grams of sample and then to orbit the asteroid for a year.

“We study asteroids like Bennu to learn about the origin of the solar system. OSIRIS-REx’s sample will help us answer some of the biggest questions about where we come from,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

It’s not going to be easy for OSIRIS-REx to collect samples from Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx came close to the asteroid on December 3, 2018, when it matched the speed and orbit of Bennu and started to analyze the surface. Unfortunately, it looks like it will not be an easy mission because of the asteroid’s surface which is not as smooth as scientist thought. First observations of the asteroid were made from Earth with radar measurements.

But Bennu is covered in debris, from dust and small rocks to huge boulders. “The first three months of OSIRIS-REx’s up-close investigation of Bennu have reminded us what discovery is all about — surprises, quick thinking, and flexibility,” said Glaze. NASA will have to find a way to avoid all debris and find a space on the asteroid that is safe enough for OSIRIS to collect samples.

“Bennu has issued us a challenge to deal with its rugged terrain, and we are confident that OSIRIS-REx is up to the task,” added Rich Burns, the project manager of OSIRIS-REx at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.