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OSIRIS-Rex is coming home in May

The OSIRIS-REx team decided to delay the spacecraft’s departure from asteroid Bennu for 2 months. The departure window opens in March 2021, and therefore the original plan had OSIRIS-REx setting course for Earth on March 3, to bring home the asteroid samples it collected last October.
Now, a revised timeline has the spacecraft leaving Bennu on May 10, 2021. This won’t affect the target delivery data of September of 2023, but it’ll leave more observations of the asteroid. Michael Moreau said that leaving Bennu’s vicinity in May puts us within the ‘sweet spot,’ when the departure maneuver will consume the smallest amount amount of the spacecraft’s onboard fuel, Moreau is that the OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Nevertheless, with over 593 miles per hour (265 meters per second) of velocity change, this might become the most important propulsive maneuver conducted by OSIRIS-REx after approaching Bennu in October 2018.

During its October 20, 2020 sample collection event, OSIRIS-REx scooped up a considerable amount of fabric from Bennu’s surface, likely exceeding the mission’s requirement of two ounces (60 grams). Images sent back from OSIRIS-REx on Oct. 22 showed asteroid regolith slowly escaping from the spacecraft’s collector head, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), meaning the gathering container was full-to-overflowing.
NASA said the May departure will provide the OSIRIS-REx team with the chance to plan a final spacecraft flyby of Bennu, which wasn’t a part of the first mission schedule. Of particular interest is making a final observation to require a glance at the sample site on Bennu – called Nightingale — to potentially find out how the spacecraft’s contact could also be altered surface.
If the team determines this is often feasible, the flyby will happen in early April and can observe Nightingale from a distance of roughly 2 miles (3.2 kilometers). The imagery that is collected by the spacecraft during the sample event, Bennu’s surface was considerably disturbed with the TAGSAM collector head sinking 1.6 feet (48.8 centimeters) into the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft’s thrusters also disturbed a considerable amount of surface material during the back-away burn.

The spacecraft would take new images of Nightingale and compare them to the very detailed, high-resolution observations taken in 2019 to settle on the sample site then plan for the sample collection event.
Lori Glaze said that OSIRIS-REx has already in the condition to supply incredible science. We’re really excited about the planning another observation flyby mission of asteroid Bennu to supply new information about how the asteroid skilled TAG and to render a correct farewell.
One other benefit for the new observations is to assess the present functionality of science instruments onboard the spacecraft – specifically the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS), OSIRIS-REx thermionic emission Spectrometer (OTES), OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS), and OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA). If any possible extended mission opportunities are to be considered, the team must understand the health of the instruments. Its possible dust coated the instruments during the sample collection event and therefore the mission wants to gauge the status of every.

The spacecraft will fly along Earth in 2023 to drop off the Sample Return Capsule (SRC). Because it approaches Earth, OSIRIS-REx will jettison the SRC, which can land under parachutes at the Utah Test and Training Range.
NASA will be transporting the capsule to the curation facility at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston once it gets recovered, and distribute the sample to laboratories worldwide. Scientists are looking forward to studying the traditional asteroid samples, which can provide information about the formation of our system.