Mission OSIRIS-REx is set to unravel the rubbles of an asteroid. It’s a mission that is 16 years in the making.
The University of Arizona spearheaded a NASA mission that aims to nest a spacecraft into an asteroid. The goal is to land the spacecraft into the Bennu asteroid and collect loose rubble from the former in a span of 10 seconds.
The attempt will start on Oct. 20, 5 p.m. EDT. The mission is called OSIRIS-REx, and the goal is to collect at least two ounces of loose rubble from asteroid Bennu and then abort it and get back to planet Earth.
A mission that took years
Though the plan might seem simple, it took 16 years to form this mission back in 2011, when NASA selected the University of Arizona to lead the mission.
According to ScienceAlert, the mission is led by Dante Lauretta, a former assistant professor of planetary science of UArizona and a protege then to the late Michael Drake, head of UArizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, in 2004. That year (2011), when NASA picked the university, Drake succumbed, and Lauretta did take the lead for this mission.
The said mission could open doors to potential asteroid mining that could produce rocker fuels. Aside from that, Asteroid Bennu has a risk of impacting the earth since it is near our planet and is estimated to impact earth in the late 2100s.
The mission could also mean a way of studying how to prevent this cataclysmic event from unfolding. That is why the RI in OSIRIS-REx could mean research identification and tracing the chemical properties of asteroids.
Previous mission OSIRIS-REx
As a result of curiosity and unlocking what might be out in our space, there have been several space explorations made. In the 1990s, asteroids Gaspa and Ida were flown past NASA’s Galileo.
NEAR Shoemaker successfully landed on an asteroid, the first human-made object to orbit and land safely. Asteroid Vesta was orbited and mapped by NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft before heading to planet Ceres in 2012.
The Japanese counterpart of NASA, JAXA, successfully collected a tiny amount of dust from an asteroid in 2010 via Hayabusa Aircraft. This milestone is considered a significant event in space exploration history.
JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 successfully landed and collected samples from the asteroid Ryugu earlier this year and is expected to return home later this year.
Mission into the Unknown
OSIRIS-REx, when launched on the 8th of September 2016 at Cape Cavernal, Florida, and touched down on asteroid Bennu in 2018, had brought surprising details of the former.
The team behind this mission assumed that the asteroid’s surface was like a sandy beach. But as the spacecraft approaches the asteroid (note that in recent years, they have conducted testing and not touched the asteroid yet), images captured by OSIRIS-REx reveal that the surface of the asteroid is rugged.
Also, back in 2019, the team behind OSIIS-REx announced the landing site of the spacecraft in the asteroid and they call it the Nightingale. At this spot, the team identified loose rubble that the spacecraft could collect and carry.
Images used courtesy of NASA Goddard/YouTube Screenshot