Wed. Sep 30th, 2020

X Marks the Spot: NASA Selects Site for Asteroid Sample Collection

After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s 1st asteroid sample come back mission has formally elect a sample assortment web site.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith person (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team finished a web site selected “Nightingale” – set in an exceedingly crater high in Bennu’s hemisphere – is that the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx artificial satellite to snag its sample.

The OSIRIS-REx team spent the past many months evaluating close-range information from four candidate sites so as to spot the simplest possibility for the sample assortment. The candidate sites – dubbed shorebird, Osprey, Kingfisher, and Nightingale – were chosen for investigation as a result of, of all the potential sampling regions on Bennu, these areas cause the fewest hazards to the spacecraft’s safety whereas still providing the chance for excellent samples to be gathered.

“After completely evaluating all four candidate sites, we have a tendency to created our judgement supported that web site has the best quantity of fine-grained material and the way simply the artificial satellite will access that material whereas keeping the artificial satellite safe,” aforesaid Dante Alighieri Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx scientist at the University of Arizona in urban center. “Of the four candidates, web site Nightingale best meets these criteria and, ultimately, best ensures mission success.”

Site Nightingale is found in an exceedingly northern crater 460 feet (140 meters) wide. Nightingale’s regolith – or rocky surface material – is dark, and pictures show that the crater is comparatively sleek. as a result of it’s set to date north, temperatures within the region area unit below elsewhere on the asteroid and therefore the surface material is healthy. The crater is also thought to be comparatively young, and therefore the regolith is freshly exposed. this suggests the location would seemingly yield a pristine sample of the asteroid, giving the team insight into Bennu’s history.

Although Nightingale ranks the very best of any location on Bennu, the location still poses challenges for sample assortment. the first mission arrange visualized a sample web site with a diameter of 164 feet (50 meters). whereas the crater that hosts Nightingale is larger than that, the realm safe enough for the artificial satellite to the touch is way smaller – roughly fifty two feet (16 meters) in diameter, leading to a web site that’s solely concerning tenth the scale of what was originally visualized. this suggests the artificial satellite should terribly accurately target Bennu’s surface. Nightingale additionally contains a building-size boulder located on the crater’s jap rim, that may cause a hazard to the artificial satellite whereas backing away when contacting the location.

Read More: www.nasa.gov

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