NASA has announced that its OSIRIS-REx mission has one final step to complete before the planned asteroid Bennu lands. The space agency plans to conduct this final step on August 11 — a second preview of the entire landing sequence, similar to the Checkpoint rehearsal in April. The upcoming preview was named Matchpoint.
The OSIRIS-REx mission aims to take samples from the surface of the rocky asteroid Bennu. The event, known as “Touch-and-Go,” hints at the nature of the sample collection process: the spacecraft will make a series of maneuvers, come into contact with asteroids, collect fragments of material, and then return from rocky planets back into orbit.
NASA has spent months evaluating Bennu, including the best landing site for the sample and a backup location in case the first site fails. The target site is known as the Nightingale, and in the upcoming rehearsal, the spacecraft will reach within 131 feet of Bennu’s surface.
According to NASA, Matchpoint will be the first time OSIRIS-REx has flown in sync with the asteroid’s rotation. NASA says this will give its team a chance to familiarize themselves with the necessary touchdowns. At the same time, the team will have one last chance to validate all systems that will participate in the process, including checking navigation and imaging hardware.
Of course, after the exercise, the same team will analyze the data to determine whether the spacecraft was maneuvered as expected. At the end of this, OSIRIS-REx will return to its regular “safe track” for the upcoming “Touch-and-Go” event, scheduled for October 20.