What a View: OSIRIS REx Mission Captures Images of Test Run Maneuver Near Asteroid
NASA’s OSIRIS REx team, which includes two professors from the University of Central Florida, completed a dress rehearsal of maneuvers it expects to make when its mission to collect a sample from an ancient asteroid comes to its climax.
UCF Professor Humberto Campins and Assistant Professor Kerri Donaldson Hanna are part of the science team on the mission, which is a first-of-its-kind mission for the United States. The spacecraft is scheduled to perform a touch-and-go operation, extending the spacecraft’s arm to collect a small sample of asteroid Bennu in August and then return it to Earth in 2023.
During the dress rehearsal completed earlier this month, the team tested those maneuvers necessary to collect the sample. The test-run also produced stunning photos taken by the camera mounted on the vehicle’s arm.
“The photos are just amazing,” Campins says. “This is a very significant step that brings OSIRIS-REx closer to our sampling maneuver in August. The dress rehearsal went better than expected. The spacecraft successfully demonstrated its ability to fine-tune its approach to Bennu.”
When the spacecraft launched in September 2016 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the team, led by University of Arizona Professor Dante S. Lauretta, expected a somewhat smooth asteroid surface based on data collected about Bennu. But when the spacecraft arrived in December 2018 it encountered several surprises.
Particles were being ejected from its surface and it was covered in boulders of varying sizes. The team had to make several major adjustments from its approach to the asteroid to how it mapped the surface. Campins and others on the imaging team spent months analyzing the photos to determine the best spots for collection. It became obvious they were not going to get a clear 50-meter diameter region to collect the sample. The primary sampling site, named Nightingale is an area of about 10-meters and is the best option.
“It looks good for the sampling event in August,” Campins says.
Asteroid Bennu was selected because data indicated it is a carbonaceous primitive asteroid that may contain material from the earliest history of our solar system. The asteroid is expected to contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans.
While Bennu has a very small chance to impact Earth in the final decade of the next century, learning more about the composition of this asteroid will be important information for plans to prevent an asteroid impact.
Share This Article
UCF Student Research Week 2023 Kicks Off with the Academic Exhibition of the Year
UCF students will share their findings with the university community during Student Research Week, March 27-31. Compiling and condensing all their work on one poster each, students will present their work...
UCF Graduate Dean’s Dissertation Completion Fellowship Drives Excellence, Provides Aid
As the cost of living has risen dramatically over the past several years, financial assistance has become a vital component of student success. There is no doubt that completing a...
UCF Postdoctoral Scholar Draws on Her Island Roots to Champion for Marginalized Populations
Makella Coudray is passionate about advocating for disadvantaged groups. “I personally like championing causes for those that society may overlook, and I try to do that through my work,” she...
UCF Researchers Work to Reduce the Amount of Precious Metals in Catalytic Converters
The precious metals, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, in catalytic converters make the vehicle devices attractive to thieves, but University of Central Florida researchers are working to reduce the...
UCF Researcher Receives Samsung International Global Research Outreach Award
Debashis Chanda, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, recently received Samsung’s International Global Research Outreach Award for the year 2022 in the Future Camera and Sensor category. This is...