Japan’s Osprey 2 has successfully obtained samples of the asteroid Dragon Palace before returning to Earth,media CNET reported. NASA hopes for a similar success on its current Osiris-Rex mission on the asteroid Bennu. But it will be challenging.
NASA announced Wednesday that the agency is days away from selecting the final sampling site for the Osiris-Rex probe. This is not an easy process. In July, NASA narrowed the options to four potential locations named after birds: Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey and Sandpiper.
The Osiris-Rex probe has been conducting reconnaissance flights on the ground, capturing high-resolution images and providing his team with many opportunities to think. The terrain of the asteroid Bennu is surprisingly complex. It’s full of boulders, some of which are as big as buildings.
The agency had hoped to find a spacious sand without obstacles. “In fact, the potential sampling sites are not large, clear areas, but small spaces surrounded by large boulders, so getting spacecraft in and out of these sites requires more fine-tuning than originally planned,” NASA said in a statement released Wednesday. “
Osiris-Rex has a built-in safety system that aborts sample collection missions if the spacecraft detects a potential hazard. “If the spacecraft performs a take-off while trying to collect samples, it simply means that both the team and the spacecraft have completed their work to ensure that the spacecraft can fly for another day.” The success of the mission is our top priority,” said Mike Moreau, Deputy Project Manager.
The sample collection is scheduled for mid-2020. If all goes well, Osiris-Rex will bring the Bennu sample back to Earth later in 2023.