PHOENIX - In 2016, history was made at Cape Canaveral, Fla., when the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched into space. The spacecraft successfully collected a sample from the asteroid Bennu, and on April 7, it made one last flyover of the asteroid before it began its journey back to earth.
"Saying goodbye to it is a little bittersweet. It gave us an awesome sample to bring home, so we’re taking a part of it with us," said Heather Enos, Deputy Principal Investigator of the OSIRIS-REx Mission for the University of Arizona.
Enos says the final flyover took over five hours, and the spacecraft captured high-resolution images with the spacecraft’s polycam.
"We didn’t initially intend to do post-sample imaging, given the experience we had as we touched the surface and collected quite an abundance of material," said Enos. "We couldn’t resist the opportunity to go back and see what Bennu looks like after we made contact with it."
The team will compare the new images with previous ones taken in 2019 to see what has changed as a result of the samples collected in October 2020. "We believe we’ve exposed some of the material that’s underneath, so that gives us an opportunity to study the characteristics of Bennu from a different perspective," said Enos.
OSIRIS-REx will remain near Bennu until it's ready to head back to Earth on May 10.
"The real purpose of the mission is to have the samples back and be able to do so much additional science with the material, and be able to ground-truth what we learned while we were at Bennu," said Enos.
The spacecraft is expected to land at the Utah Test and Training Range in September 2023.
Previous FOX 10 reports on the OSIRIS-REx probe
- A long wait for cosmic answers
- NASA chasing down asteroid to scoop up, bring back samples
- UArizona scientist plays role in ongoing mission to bring asteroid sample back to Earth
- NASA spacecraft touches asteroid surface for rare rubble grab
- Arizona Scientists waiting for OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's return from the stars
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