NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins its Countdown to TAG

by Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

A historic moment is on the horizon for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. In just a few weeks, the robotic OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to asteroid Bennu’s boulder-strewn surface, touch down for a few seconds and collect a sample of the asteroid’s rocks and dust – marking the first time NASA has grabbed pieces of an asteroid, which will be returned to Earth for study.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx to Asteroid Bennu: “You’ve got a little Vesta on you…”

During spring 2019, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured these images, which show fragments of asteroid Vesta present on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The bright boulders (circled in the images) are pyroxene-rich material from Vesta. Some bright material appear to be individual rocks (left) while others appear to be clasts within larger boulders (right). (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In an interplanetary faux pas, it appears some pieces of asteroid Vesta ended up on asteroid Bennu, according to observations from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The new result sheds light on the intricate orbital dance of asteroids and on the violent origin of Bennu, which is a “rubble pile” asteroid that coalesced from the fragments of a massive collision.

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Hayabusa2 to Visit Rapidly Spinning Asteroid in Extended Mission

Hayabusa2 spacecraft at asteroid 1998 KY26. (Credit: Auburn University, JAXA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

JAXA has selected a second asteroid for Hayabusa2 to explore after the spacecraft completes its primary mission to Ryugu in December. But, it’s not going to be an easy destination to reach.

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Technology Developed for Lunar Landings Makes Self-Driving Cars Safer on Earth

Electro-Optics Lead Aram Gragossian (left) and Integration Lead Jake Follman configure the electronics within an NDL engineering test unit for remote software testing while in a lab on center at NASA’s Langley Research Center. (Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — NASA is advancing a laser-based technology designed to help spacecraft land on a proverbial dime for missions to the Moon and Mars. The technology will undergo testing on upcoming suborbital rocket launches with Blue Origin on its New Shepard rocket and ride to the Moon on several commercial landers as part of the Artemis program. Simultaneously, companies are using the technology to help self-driving cars navigate rush hour traffic on this planet.

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IG Audit: NASA Planetary Program Faces Major Financial, Managerial Challenges

Dragonfly flying over the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) faces a series of managerial, financial and personnel challenges as it prepares to conduct a series of ever more ambitious missions to the moon and planets, according to a new audit by the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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Where Rocks Come Alive: OSIRIS-REx Observes an Asteroid in Action

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (Credits: NASA/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. And while here on Earth, “happy hour” is commonly associated with winding down and the optional cold beverage, that’s when things get going on Bennu, the destination asteroid of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx NASA mission.

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic, Looks Ahead in 2020, 2021

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.

Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.

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A Successful Second Rehearsal Puts NASA’s OSIRIS-REx on a Path to Sample Collection

These images were captured over a 13.5-minute period. The imaging sequence begins at approximately 420 feet (128 meters) above the surface – before the spacecraft executes the “Checkpoint” maneuver – and runs through to the “Matchpoint” maneuver, with the last image taken approximately 144 feet (44 meters) above the surface of Bennu. The spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) – is visible in the lower part of the frame. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Brittany Enos
University of Arizona

Yesterday, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed its final practice run of the sampling sequence, reaching an approximate altitude of 131 feet (40 meters) over sample site Nightingale before executing a back-away burn. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu’s northern hemisphere.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is One Rehearsal Away from Touching Asteroid Bennu

This artist’s concept shows the trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Checkpoint rehearsal, which is the first time the mission will practice the initial steps for collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/ Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Nancy N. Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in

Greenbelt, Md. — NASA’s first asteroid sampling spacecraft is making final preparations to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu’s surface. Next week, the OSIRIS-REx mission will conduct a second rehearsal of its touchdown sequence, practicing the sample collection activities one last time before touching down on Bennu this fall.

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OSIRIS-REx Creates Mosaic of Asteroid Bennu

Mosaic of asteroid Bennu. (Credit: University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (University of Arizona PR) — As NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prepares to briefly touch down and collect a sample from the asteroid Bennu in October, the mission’s science team, led by the University of Arizona, has worked meticulously to create the highest resolution global map of any planetary body, including Earth. The endeavor is the latest in the university’s long history of celestial imaging and mapping – one that began with the first lunar landings.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Produces Nightingale Mosaic

Mosaic of Nightingale sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

by Erin Morton
University of Arizona

This view of sample site Nightingale on asteroid Bennu is a mosaic of images collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on March 3. A total of 345 PolyCam images were stitched together to produce the mosaic, which shows the site at 0.2 inches (4 mm) per pixel at full size.

These images were captured when the spacecraft performed an 820-foot (250-meter) reconnaissance pass over site Nightingale, which at the time was the closest the site had been imaged. The low-altitude pass provided high-resolution imagery for the OSIRIS-REx team to identify the best location within the site to target for sample collection.

Sample site Nightingale is located in the relatively clear patch just above the crater’s center – visible in the center of the image. The large, dark boulder located at the top right measures 43 feet (13 meters) on its longest axis. The mosaic is rotated so that Bennu’s east is at the top of the image.

Nightingale is the primary sample collection site for the OSIRIS-REx mission. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make its first sample collection attempt at site Nightingale on Oct. 20.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Finds Heat, Cold Fracturing Rocks on Asteroid Bennu

Exfoliation features on a cliff face (a) and on boulders (b-f) with varying size and location. The bright dome on the horizon of panel (a) is a boulder behind the exfoliating cliff. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

TUCSON (Planetary Science Institute PR) — Close-up observations of asteroid Bennu by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft contain the first evidence of thermal fracturing of rocks on an airless body, a Nature Communications paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Jamie Molaro says. 

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OSIRIS-REx Swoops Over Sample Site Osprey

Osprey collection site on the asteroid Bennu. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA Mission Update

This view of sample site Osprey on asteroid Bennu is a mosaic of images collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on May 26. A total of 347 PolyCam images were stitched together and corrected to produce the mosaic, which shows the site at 0.2 inches (5 mm) per pixel at full size.

The spacecraft took these images during an 820-foot (250-meter) reconnaissance pass over the site, which is the closest Osprey has been imaged. The pass was designed to provide high-resolution imagery to identify the best areas within the site to collect a sample.

The sample site is located in the crater at the bottom of the image, just above the dark patch at the crater’s center. The long, light-colored boulder to the left of the dark patch, named Strix Saxum, is 17 ft (5.2 m) in length. The mosaic is rotated so that Bennu’s east is at the top of the image.

Osprey is the backup sample collection site for the OSIRIS-REx mission. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make its first sample collection attempt at primary site Nightingale on Oct. 20.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Ready for Touchdown on Asteroid Bennu

During the sample collection event, Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) will guide NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to asteroid Bennu’s surface. The spacecraft takes real-time images of the asteroid’s surface features as it descends, and then compares these images with an onboard image catalog. The spacecraft then uses these geographical markers to orient itself and accurately target the touchdown site. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission is officially prepared for its long-awaited touchdown on asteroid Bennu’s surface. The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has targeted Oct. 20 for its first sample collection attempt.

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