Cosmic Detective Work: Why We Care About Space Rocks

This artist’s concept depicts the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

By Elizabeth Landau
NASA

The entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

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NASA to Host Live Science Chat on Asteroid, Kuiper Belt Missions

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

NASA will host a live Science Chat at 2 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nov. 7, to discuss upcoming encounters of two of the agency’s planetary missions – the arrival of the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) at the asteroid Bennu, on Dec. 3, and New Horizons’ historic flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019.

Topics will include the critical clues these objects hold to the formation of the solar system, complementary mission science goals and much more.

The event will air on Facebook Live, NASA Television, UstreamYouTube and the agency’s website.

Participants include:

  • Hal Weaver, New Horizons Project Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Melissa Morris, OSIRIS-REx Deputy Program Scientist, NASA Headquarters

Media may submit questions before and during the event by emailing JoAnna Wendel at joanna.r.wendel@nasa.gov. The public may ask questions on Twitter by using the hashtag #askNASA or by leaving a comment on the livestream of the event on the NASA Solar System page.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will initiate an intricate dance with Bennu, mapping and studying it in preparation for sample collection in July 2020. OSIRIS-REx will deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023.

New Horizons will fly by its target, nicknamed Ultima Thule, approximately four billion miles from Earth – the farthest space probe flyby in history. This encounter complements the discoveries still coming from the mission’s July 2015 exploration of the Pluto system. However, this time, the spacecraft will come three times closer to Ultima than it did to Pluto.

For information about NASA’s New Horizons mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons

For more information about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

OSIRIS-REx Captures ‘Super-Resolution’ View of Bennu

Asteroid Bennu (Credit: Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This “super-resolution” view of asteroid Bennu was created using eight images obtained by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Oct. 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 km). The spacecraft was moving as it captured the images with the PolyCam camera, and Bennu rotated 1.2 degrees during the nearly one minute that elapsed between the first and the last snapshot. The team used a super-resolution algorithm to combine the eight images and produce a higher resolution view of the asteroid. Bennu occupies about 100 pixels and is oriented with its north pole at the top of the image.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

OSIRIS-REx Captures Rotation of Asteroid Bennu

This set of images, taken with OSIRIS-REx’s PolyCam camera on Oct. 23, 2018, shows three views of asteroid Bennu as it rotates over a span of five hours. At the time the images were taken, Bennu was about 1,800 miles (3,000 km) away from the spacecraft and appears about 13 pixels across in the camera’s field of view. In this set of images, the spacecraft’s camera is beginning to detect noticeable differences on each side of Bennu as the asteroid rotates.

Date Taken: Oct. 23, 2018

Instrument Used: OCAMS (PolyCam)

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Executes First Asteroid Approach Maneuver

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md., October 1, 2018 (NASA PR) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft executed its first Asteroid Approach Maneuver (AAM-1) today putting it on course for its scheduled arrival at the asteroid Bennu in December.

The spacecraft’s main engine thrusters fired in a braking maneuver designed to slow the spacecraft’s speed relative to Bennu from approximately 1,100 mph (491 m/sec) to 313 mph (140 m/sec). The mission team will continue to examine telemetry and tracking data as they become available and will have more information on the results of the maneuver over the next week.

During the next six weeks, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will continue executing the series of asteroid approach maneuvers designed to fly the spacecraft through a precise corridor during its final slow approach to Bennu.

The last of these, AAM-4, scheduled for Nov. 12, will adjust the spacecraft’s trajectory to arrive at a position 12 miles (20 km) from Bennu on Dec. 3. After arrival, the spacecraft will initiate asteroid proximity operations by performing a series of fly-bys over Bennu’s poles and equator.

10 Reasons Why NASA is Visiting Asteroid Bennu

Artist’s concept of asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

After traveling for two years and billions of kilometers from Earth, the OSIRIS-REx probe is only a few months away from its destination: the intriguing asteroid Bennu. When it arrives in December, OSIRIS-REx will embark on a nearly two-year investigation of this clump of rock, mapping its terrain and finding a safe and fruitful site from which to collect a sample.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign

REENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it safely back to Earth. The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

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Two Pieces of a Cosmic Puzzle: Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx

Originally published by OSIRIS-REx Mission/University of Arizona
Republished with permission

It began with dust. Before there were asteroids, or planets, or people – about 4.6 billion years ago – a cloud of dust and gas swirled in the cosmos. At the center, a star began to form.

With heat and shock waves, clumps of this ancient dust coalesced into droplets of molten rock called chondrules. These chondrules and dust became the building blocks of the Solar System. Eventually, chunks of material as large as asteroids, and even planets, formed from this cloud and organized according to the laws of physics around a newly born star: our Sun.

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OSIRIS-REx Continues Cruise Toward Asteroid Bennu

This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — OSIRIS-REx is continuing outbound cruise operations, en route to arrival in August of 2018 at the asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft is currently 29.6 million miles (47.6 million kilometers) from Earth and is executing a program designed to study and reduce the presence of water on the spacecraft.

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NASA’s Asteroid-Bound Spacecraft to Slingshot Past Earth

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth.
(Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass about 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22. Using Earth as a slingshot, the spacecraft will receive an assist to complete its journey to the asteroid Bennu.

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Canadian Technology Launched Aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx

This is an artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney
This is an artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft preparing to take a sample from asteroid Bennu. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/Chris Meaney)

LONGUEUIL, Quebec (CSA PR) — The Government of Canada recognizes the valuable contributions of the nation’s researchers as they continue to explore new frontiers in science. Today, Canadian-built technology launched on board a NASA spacecraft that is en route to a mysterious asteroid named Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx launch occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:05 p.m. EDT and was attended by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science. She was joined on site by Sylvain Laporte, President of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and Dr. Erick Dupuis, the CSA‘s Director of Space Exploration Development.

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NASA Prepares to Launch Asteroid Sample Return Mission

The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
The high gain antenna and solar arrays were installed on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft prior to it moving to environmental testing (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is preparing to launch its first mission to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth. The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

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