The OSIRIS just like its name after “Powerful” and “mighty”, it did some not so easy tasks. By dodging boulders the size of buildings, momentarily touched the surface to collect a handful of data. It’s the first time the United States has done something like this. So far only Japan has scored the asteroid samples.
Update 10/20/20 6:31 p.m. ET: Touchdown for OSIRIS-REx! At 6:12 p.m. ET, the OSIRIS-REx mission team received word that the spacecraft had successfully completed its tag of the asteroid Bennu. In a few days, the team will find out just how much sediment it collected.
“These asteroids are really relics of that earliest material that formed the planets in our solar system,” NASA Planetary Science Division Director Lori Glaze said in an October 19 press briefing. “They hold the key information unlocking information about how the solar system formed and how it evolved over time.”
Instead, the asteroid has a rough surface strewn with rocks and boulders that are, in some cases, as large as a building. “Exploration and surprise have a lot in common, and this is no exception,” Zurbuchen continued. Fortunately, NASA and its contractors had a contingency plan in place for this exact scenario.
Planning for such a critical procedure would be difficult under normal circumstances, but it has been made more difficult by the spread of the novel coronavirus this year, which forced the team to work from home. Despite the challenges here on Earth, OSIRIS-REx has since completed two successful dress rehearsals.
Call it whatever a cosmic high-five or a punch but NASA pulled this off successfully and gracefully.
The historic mission was 12 years in the making and rested on a critical 16 second period where the spacecraft performed a delicate autonomous manoeuvre to grab its payload: at least 60 grams (two ounces), or a candy-bar sized amount of surface material that scientists hope will help unravel the origins of our solar system. If Osiris-Rex successfully comes home in September 2023, it will have collected the largest sample returned from space since the Apollo era.
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