TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After collecting the sample off the surface of Asteroid Bennu, OSIRIS-REx stayed in its vicinity, but NASA says the spacecraft is just months away from beginning its journey back home.
OSIRIS-REx begins that expedition on May 10, 2021, and is scheduled to deliver the collected sample to Earth in September 2023.
NASA says the departure in May will allow the OSIRIS-REx team the opportunity to plan a final spacecraft flyby of Bennu. Officials say this was not part of the original mission, but that it’s a perfect opportunity to make final oberservations.
The space agency says the surface of Bennu was considerably disturbed after the touch-and-go collection event in October 2020, when the spacecraft’s collector head dug 1.6 feet into its surface. And the spacecraft’s thrusters also disturbed a substantial amount of surface material during the back-away burn.
“OSIRIS-REx has already provided incredible science,” said Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “We’re really excited the mission is planning one more observation flyby of asteroid Bennu to provide new information about how the asteroid responded to TAG and to render a proper farewell.”
Officials with NASA say as OSIRIS-REx approaches Earth, it will jettison the collection capsule, which will travel through the atmosphere and land under parachutes at a facility in Utah.
Once recovered, NASA will transport the capsule to the curation facility at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and distribute the sample to laboratories worldwide.