OSIRIS-REx prepares for final rehearsal before fall touchdown on asteroid

OSIRIS-REx prepares for final rehearsal before fall touchdown on asteroid
The OSIRIS-REx is expected to collect a sample from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20. (Source: Arizona Board of Regents)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - NASA’s first asteroid sampling spacecraft is making final preparations to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu’s surface.

The University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission will conduct a rehearsal of its touchdown sequence on Tuesday, Aug. 11, practicing the sample collection activities one last time before touching down on Bennu this fall.

Tuesday’s rehearsal of the Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection event will be similar to the April 14 Checkpoint rehearsal, which practiced the first two maneuvers of the descent. This time the spacecraft will add a third maneuver, called the matchpoint burn.

The spacecraft will fly to an altitude of about 131 feet above the sample site before backing away from the asteroid.

OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta, a professor in the UArizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said completing this milestone will allow the team to move forward with confidence.

“This rehearsal will give us a final chance to confirm that all of the spacecraft systems and the team is ready so that we can safely collect a sample in October,” Lauretta said.

On Oct. 20, the spacecraft will travel all the way to the asteroid’s surface during its first sample collection attempt. During this event, OSIRIS-REx’s sampling mechanism will touch Bennu’s surface for approximately five seconds, fire a charge of pressurized nitrogen to disturb the surface and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away. The spacecraft is scheduled to return the sample to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.

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