A few days after announcing the final four candidate sites for future asteroid sample missions involving the OSIRIS-REx probe, NASA announced its selection of the final sampling site, Nightingale, according tomedia Slash Gear. NASA hopes the destination will be the source of physical samples collected by the OSIRIS-REx probe, which has been orbiting the asteroid Bennu for months.
The asteroid proved to be a rocky world, so choosing a sampling site is a tricky process for NASA scientists. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be very close to the asteroid’s surface to collect samples, but this will only work if the researchers choose the following location: A) contains enough fine particles for the probe to collect;
OSIRIS-REx sent back NASA from many images of asteroids captured from various angles, and a team studied them to find the ideal location for sample collection. Earlier this month, NASA announced four final candidate sites, each with its own potential advantages and disadvantages. Of the four sites, Nightingale became the preferred location for sample collection, NASA said.
According to the space agency, Nightingale has the most fine particulate matter in the four candidate sites, and spacecraft have safe and easy access to the site compared to other sites. According to NASA, the site is located in a 460-foot-diameter crater, and the northern material of the crater may be “well preserved.”
Having said that, Nightingale is not the ideal location. NASA says the actual samples collected are about 52 feet in size, and the mission was to find a 164-foot-diameter sample collection site. Similarly, there is a huge boulder at the edge of the crater (the size of a building), which could pose a threat to the spacecraft. Assuming that the Nightingale mission ultimately does not go as expected, NASA will choose Osprey as an alternative location.