NASA Asks for Help in Keeping Safe its OSIRIS-REx Probe

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NASA asks for the public’s help regarding their OSIRIS-REx probe which landed on asteroid Bennu on December the 3rd, 2018. The spacecraft has the mission to return with a sample from the asteroid back on Earth. But before it can return, it has to find a safe area on the asteroid’s surface.

NASA aims for the Osiris-Rex to be the first American spacecraft to return with a piece from an asteroid. Japan’s Hayabusa expedition returned with asteroid pieces in 2010, and the country has another similar mission ongoing this year. Ever since the U.S. probe landed on Bennu, the astronomers managing it discovered an overly treacherous terrain that puts the vehicle’s safety to risk.

That’s why NASA is asking for help, namely creating a hazard map by measuring Bennu’s rocks and marking them along with its craters through a web interface.

Rich Burns, Osiris-Rex project manager at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center stated that Bennu surprised scientists with its multitude of rocks. NASA is, therefore, asking the public scientists to help appraise the bumpy terrain so they can continue keeping the probe safe during its tasks and operations. What NASA says would be enough is a mapping app with a screen sufficient large to see captures of the star’s surface and a mouse or trackpad that can allow accurate marks.

NASA Asks for Help in Keeping Safe its OSIRIS-REx Probe

A tutorial shows how to skip the CosmoQuest app circling craters, measure rocks, and delete mistakes. CosmoQuest is a project conducted by the Planetary Science Institute and supports the public’s science enterprises, providing user assistance via an online community. The app also offers advice via live broadcasting sessions on Twitch.

The initial design for snatching a part of the asteroid was founded on locating a hazard-free area with a 25 meter (160 feet) range on the object’s surface. However, due to the surprising rugged ground, the team of astronomers still has to find such an area. The Bennu mapping campaign will end on July the 10th. Asteroid Bennu has a diameter of around 500 meters (1,600 feet), and it is classified as a hazardous object, but Burns said that there is a tiny chance that the star will crash on the Earth in the next one hundred years.

OSIRIS-REx discovered in its first five months after landing on Bennu that the asteroid has tapped water and concluded that the star is around 100 million and a billion years old. This makes it relatively older than scientists previously thought. NASA’s probe mission won’t grab the piece of the star just yet: it will only happen in 2020. That is when OSIRIS-REx’s robotic arm will touch Bennu’s surface with its Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism, also called Tagsam. As the probe tags the surface of the asteroid, the arm will pump a flare of nitrogen gas to unwind pieces of junk that will be then taken to Earth when the spacecraft will return, namely in September 2023.

Bennu might hold untouched elements from the solar system’s early years. Astronomers hope that OSIRIS-REx will provide clues of the astronomical courses and resources in the space close to Earth, and enhance the understanding of asteroids that could collide with our planet.

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.