The OSIRIS-REx is a spacecraft that was launched in space to collect a sample from Asteroid Bennu, which it orbits since December 3, 2018, and carry it back to Earth where the samples will be carefully analyzed. The scientists are now looking for a place to land that is primarily safe, and that allows the rover to collect material that is relevant for the analysis.
NASA needs help to find the ideal landing spot for OSIRIS-REx
One aspect that the team identified after the spacecraft arrived at Asteroid Bennu and that proved to be problematic since Bennu’s excessively rocky surface that makes the landing of the spaceship a real challenge.
The team conducting this mission is now turning to volunteer scientists to create a hazard map of the boulders to facilitate the sample collection.
Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona stated that the team needs a centralized catalog that pinpoints all the boulders existing near the potential area of sample collection, to be able to land the spacecraft safely.
In this concern, NASA is collaborating with a project run out of the Planetary Science Institute that encourages the citizen science initiative, dubbed CosmoQuest. By using a quite simple web interface, the volunteers will be able to operate similar to planetary scientists, by measuring and mapping boulders and pits on the Asteroid Bennu surface.
Who qualifies for this ‘job?’
To be able to access the CosmoQuest mapping app, you need to have a larger screen and a mouse that allows you to precisely mark spots on your screen. An interactive tutorial will guide volunteers throughout the platform, and they will also have access to further assistance through a Discord community as well as Twitch live streams.
The mapping campaign will continue until July 10, when the sample site selection is intended to happen. Once the areas are selected, the spacecraft will closer investigate the asteroid surface to identify the two sites. OSIRIS-REx is expected to return on Earth with the sample collected by September 2023.