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NASA to Provide Update on Agency’s First Asteroid Sample Collection Attempt

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2020

NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 24, to provide an update on the agency’s first attempt to contact the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month. Teleconference audio and visuals will stream live on NASA’s website.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will travel to the asteroid’s surface during its first sample collection attempt Oct. 20. Its sampling mechanism will touch Bennu’s surface for several seconds, fire a charge of pressurized nitrogen to disturb the surface, and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away.

Participating in this mission update are:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
  • Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division
  • Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin Space

To participate in the teleconference, media must send their name, affiliation, and phone number to Lonnie Shekhtman at lonnie.shekhtman@nasa.gov no later than 1 p.m. Sept. 24.

In response to rocky conditions discovered on the asteroid’s surface when OSIRIS-REx began orbiting Bennu in 2018, the mission team has reduced the sample area to one-tenth of the original plan. This means the spacecraft must target Bennu’s surface with even greater accuracy.

A building-size boulder also is situated on Nightingale crater’s eastern rim, which could pose a hazard to the spacecraft as it backs away from the asteroid after collecting the sample. The OSIRIS-Rex team performed two rehearsal operations to prepare for these challenges and is ready.

The spacecraft is scheduled to begin the journey back to Earth next year, arriving with the sample in 2023.

Studying Bennu helps researchers learn more about the origins of our solar system, sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, and hazards and resources in near-Earth space. For more information on OSIRIS-Rex, visit:

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

and

https://www.asteroidmission.org

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