Click for full image.
The OSIRIS-REx science team has confirmed October 20, 2020 as the date the spacecraft will attempt a sample grab from the asteroid Bennu.
OSIRIS-REx is charged with collecting at least 2 oz. (60 grams) of Bennu’s rocky material to deliver back to Earth – the largest sample return from space since the Apollo program – and the mission developed two methods to verify that this sample collection occurred. On Oct. 22, OSIRIS-REx’s SamCam camera will capture images of the TAGSAM head to see whether it contains Bennu’s surface material. The spacecraft will also perform a spin maneuver on Oct. 24 to determine the mass of collected material. If these measures show successful collection, the decision will be made to place the sample in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for return to Earth. If sufficient sample has not been collected from [the primary landing site] Nightingale, the spacecraft has onboard nitrogen charges for two more attempts. A TAG attempt at the back-up Osprey site would be made no earlier than January 2021.
The press release at the link provides a lot of technical and interesting details about the sample-grab-and-go attempt, expected to put the spacecraft in contact with the asteroid’s surface for no more than sixteen seconds.
The maneuver itself is quite risky, as the available smooth landing area, as shown in the image above, is only half the size the equipment was designed for, and surrounded by large boulders.
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