Earlier this month, NASA revealed the final four landing sites of its OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe,media BGR reported. Locations known as Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey, and Sandpiper represent different regions of the asteroid, where the probe is most likely to land, collect samples, and then fly back to the orbit of space rocks.
NASA spent about a full year examining Bennu’s surface to find the best possible landing site and narrow it down to just four potential locations. Now, after further analysis, NASA has declared Nightingale the best option.
For a variety of reasons, it is important to select a landing site. First, NASA selected a site that can determine the quality of samples retrieved by OSIRIS-REx. In addition, the landing site must be relatively fragmentable, as remote communication with the probe means NASA cannot directly control its operations.
Ground controllers issue commands and then wait as the detector executes them. If something goes wrong, it’s almost impossible for the Earth’s team to intervene, and NASA hopes the spacecraft’s own systems will avoid trouble. With all this in mind, it seems that Nightingale is the best choice for OSIRIS-REx.
“After a thorough assessment of all four candidate sites, we make a final decision based on which site has the most fine particulate matter and how easily the spacecraft can access the material while keeping the spacecraft safe,” Danterett Lauretta, head of the OSIRIS-REx team, said in a statement. Of the four candidate sites, the Nightingale site is best suited to these conditions and is expected to ultimately best ensure the success of the mission. “
The actual rapid sample collection process will take place in August 2020, and the OSIRIS-REx probe will return to Earth from 2021 and eventually reach Earth by the end of 2023.