NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Space Probe Shot Lasers To Asteroid Bennu To Scan Its Surface

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NASA’s mission called OSIRIS-REx has been steadily progressing since it arrived at the space rock that has a shape similar to a diamond, known as Asteroid Bennu, a few months back. Unfortunately, the plan did not go as expected.

Compared to NASA’s original expectations, the space rock ended up being far more, well, dirty. The surface of Asteroid Bennu has debris all over it which offers the team from NASA quite a challenge as it has not even been decided where to have the probe’s touch down on the asteroid to collect samples. NASA is now using a laser instrument built into OSIRIS-REx to take a more detailed look at the danger the space rock’s surface implies.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx shot Asteroid Bennu with lasers

A tool called the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) was used by NASA to scan the majority of Asteroid Bennu’s surface, and that has been explained in a new blog post. The instrument paints a 3D picture of the hard surfaces the laser bounces off of, and NASA researchers having this way the possibility of taking a more detailed look at the rocky surface of the space rock.

Whether the most dangerous maneuver will fail or succeed, whether there is a sample collection or a brief touchdown can be ultimately determined by the location that is chosen for the space probe to land. If there is too much debris in the area selected for a touchdown, it would have a catastrophic result for the NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe as the spacecraft would get damaged, and one of its primary objectives would be compromised.

The team from NASA, thanks to the three-dimensional laser model of the Asteroid Bennu, learns more information on what parts of the space rocks appear safer than the others. The goal is to avoid large boulders, but the best place to collect a sample is still a challenge, and the scientists have to decide, as there are too few seemingly “clean” landing spaces on Asteroid Bennu.