NASA‘s OSIRIS-REx completed his last Bennu overflight around 6 a.m. EDT (4 p.m. MDT) on April 7 and is now slowly moving away from the asteroid; however, the mission team will have to wait a few more days to find out how the spacecraft changed Bennu’s surface when it took a sample of the asteroid.
The OSIRIS-REx team added this overflight to document surface changes as a result of the Touch and Go (TAG) maneuver on 20 October 2020, the nature of the surface and subsoil materials, together with the mechanical properties of the asteroid. said Dr. Dante Laureta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona.
During the flight, OSIRIS-REx depicted Bennu in 5.9 hours, covering more than the full rotation of the asteroid. It flies a distance of 3.5 kilometers to the surface of Bennu – the closest to the moment since the collection of samples from TAG.
At least until April 13, OSIRIS-REx will download all data and new photos of Bennu’s surface recorded during the flight. He shares the Deep Space Network antennas with other missions such as Mars Perseverance,, and usually gets 4-6 hours of time down the connection per day. “We collected about 4,000 megabytes of data during the flight,” said Mike Moreau, deputy project manager for OSIRIS-REx at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Bennu is about 185 million miles from Earth at the moment, which means we can only reach a data rate of 412 kilobits per second, so it will take a few days to download all the flight data.
Once the mission team has received the images and other data from the instrument, they will investigate how OSIRIS-REx shuffled the surface of Bennu. During a touchdown, the spacecraft’s test head sank 1.6 feet (48.8 centimeters) into the asteroid’s surface and simultaneously fired nitrogen gas under pressure. The spacecraft’s engines kicked a large amount of surface material during the combustion backwards – firing rocks and dust in the process.
OSIRIS-REx,, with its pristine and valuable asteroid cargo, will remain in the vicinity of Bennu until May 10, when it will launch its pushers and begin its two-year cruise home. The mission will deliver a sample of the asteroid to Earth on September 24, 2023.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides comprehensive mission management, systems engineering and security, and mission support for OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer). Dante Laureta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the research team and the planning and processing of mission data. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provided flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, operated by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s scientific mission directorate in Washington.