NASA is planning to launch the Osiris-REX spacecraft in its mission to explore the Asteroid Bennu in July 2020. Since the announcement, the space agency has been analyzing potential landing sites for the event, and now experts narrowed down the options to four locations. One of these will be chosen for Osiris-REX to land an collect a sample that will be brought back down to Earth for scientists to study.
Scientists performed a very careful analyzation of Bennu’s surface. The asteroid measures 0.3 miles in diameter, which is considered tiny for an object of this kind. Its size makes it hard for experts to choose the right approach method.
Dante Laurette, professor at the University of Arizona Tucson, said: “We knew that Bennu would surprise us, so we came prepared for whatever we might find. As with any mission of exploration, dealing with the unknown requires flexibility, resources, and ingenuity.”
The Osiris-REX (the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) has already performed other missions in the past.
NASA’s Osiris-REX mission is to gather material of Asteroid Bennu
The first one took place on September 8, 2017, when the spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V rocket. Later that month, on September 22, 2017, Osiris-REX began a gravitational flyby of the Earth, landing on Bennu on December 3, 2018.
On September 8, 2016. Osiris-REX made a gravitational assist flyby of the Earth on September 22, 2017, before arriving at Bennu on December 3, 2018.
The process of selecting the landing site for July 2020 is running a little bit behind schedule. According to NASA, the location should have been decided by now. The reason for the setback is that scientists are looking for a place that has fine grain material less than 1 inch in diameter.
NASA’s Osiris-REX is going to collect about 60 grams of the fine material of Asteroid Bennu. The quantity might seem small, but it would be the most significant sample brought to Earth since the Apollo missions.