GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — In August, the robotic spacecraft will make NASA’s first-ever attempt to descend to the surface of an asteroid, collect a sample and ultimately bring it safely back to Earth.
In order to achieve this challenging feat, the mission team devised new techniques to operate in asteroid Bennu’s microgravity environment – but they still need experience flying the spacecraft in close proximity to the asteroid in order to test them.
So, before touching down at sample site Nightingale this summer, OSIRIS-REx will first rehearse the activities leading up to the event.
On Apr. 14, the mission will pursue its first practice run – officially known as “Checkpoint” rehearsal – which will also place the spacecraft the closest it’s ever been to Bennu. This rehearsal is a chance for the OSIRIS-REx team and spacecraft to test the first steps of the robotic sample collection event.