The asteroid belt is a chaotic place. Things smash into each other, get thrown into completely different orbital planes, and are occasionally visited by small electronic spacecraft launched by humans. All three things seem to have happened to the asteroid Bennu, which is currently being orbited by OSIRIS-REx, a mission launched by NASA in 2016.
The most recently released results from the mission show that Bennu might have small pieces of Vesta on it. Given that Vesta is one of the biggest asteroid belt objects and Bennu is a near Earth asteroid millions of kilometers away from the asteroid belt, this hints at a pretty exciting past history for the asteroid currently being visited by NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission.
Continue reading “Asteroid Bennu has little pieces of Vesta on it”
Every 26 months, the orbits of both Earth and Mars conspire to make travel between the two planets shorter. Launching in one of these windows means the travel time can be reduced to only six months. Our robotic missions to the Martian surface, and missions that place satellites in Martian orbit, launch during these windows.
But are there other alternatives to this mission architecture?
One group of researchers says that crewed missions to Mars shouldn’t go directly to their destination; they should slingshot past Venus first.
Continue reading “Instead of Going Straight to Mars, Astronauts Should Make a Slingshot Past Venus First”
The date is finally set for OSIRIS-REx’s sampling maneuver. The spacecraft has been at asteroid Bennu since the end of December 2018. During that time, it’s found a few surprises, and mapped the surface in great detail.
Now, we can circle October 20th on our calendars, as the date OSIRIS-Rex will collect its sample.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Will Collect a Sample from Bennu on October 20th”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is getting ready for its big moment. OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) is at asteroid Bennu, preparing to collect a sample of ancient rock. And collecting that sample means taking step after meticulous step.
Continue reading “OSIRIS-REx Descended Down to Just 75 Meters Above the Surface of Bennu in a Recent Test”
In the near future, sample-return missions from Mars will finally be a reality. For decades, scientists have analyzed the composition of Martian rocks and soil by either sending rovers to the surface or by examining meteorites that came from Mars. But with missions like Perseverance, which are equipped with a sample cache instrument, it won’t be long before Martian rocks are brought back to Earth for study.
Similar to how the Apollo astronauts brought back Moon rocks, which revealed the existence of water on the Moon and its similarity to Earth, Martian rocks could reveal a great deal about the formation and evolution of the Red Planet. The question is, what rocks should be returned? This is the question that the international Mars Sample Return campaign is considering on the eve of Perseverance’s launch.
Continue reading “This is How the ESA and NASA Will be Working Together to Bring Rocks Back From Mars”
Meet OSIRIS-REx’s “Guide Boulders.”
When the NASA spacecraft first arrived at asteroid Bennu over a year ago, the surface of the asteroid was much different than expected. Instead of a surface with large, smooth areas, nearly the entire surface is covered in boulders. That meant that NASA had to do a re-think of the sampling procedure.
Continue reading “These are the Boulders OSIRIS-REx is Going to Use to Navigate Down to the Surface of Bennu”
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018. During the past year, it’s been imaging the surface of the asteroid extensively, looking for a spot to take a sample from. Though the spacecraft has multiple science objectives, and a suite of instruments to meet them, the sample return is the key objective.
Now, NASA has narrowed the choice down to four potential sampling locations on the surface of the asteroid.
Continue reading “It’s Time to Decide. Where Should OSIRIS-REx Take a Sample from Bennu?”
On June 27th, 2018, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency‘s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft reached asteroid 162173 Ryugu. As part of JAXA’s program to study Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs), this mission has spent over a year conducting landing operations, shooting up the surface with “bullets” and an anti-tank warhead, and collecting samples from the surface and interior that will eventually be returned to Earth.
This past Monday (Sept. 16th), Hayabusa2 released two target markers as part of its “target marker separation operation” (which ran from Sept. 12th to Sept. 17th). This consisted of two 10 cm (4 in) balls covered in reflective material being released in orbit around Ryugu. This operation puts the mission a step closer to the deployment of the mission’s MINERVA-II2 Rover-2, which will be landing on the asteroid’s surface next month.
Continue reading “Hayabusa 2 has one Last Lander it’s Going to Throw at Ryugu”
A new video shows Japan’s Hayabusa 2 sample return spacecraft collecting samples from asteroid Ryugu. The spacecraft has been at Ryugu for months now, and it’s all been leading up to this. In the video, you can clearly see airborne asteroid dust and particles swirling around in the low gravity.
Continue reading “Watch this Amazing Video of Hayabusa 2 Picking Up a Sample from the Surface of Ryugu”
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is now the first spacecraft to retrieve a subsurface sample from an asteroid. On July 11th, the spacecraft touched down for a second time on asteroid 162173 Ryugu. This time, the probe retrieved a sample from a crater it excavated with its impactor.
Continue reading “Hayabusa 2 is the First Spacecraft to Sample the Inside of an Asteroid”