OSIRIS-REx Booped Bennu Harder Than Expected

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Asteroids, Bennu Mappers, Daily Space, OSIRIS-REx | 0 comments

IMAGE: Bennu’s surface was disturbed in three different ways: by the force of the spacecraft touching down; by the sampling mechanism, which collected material by blowing gas into its collection filter; and by four of the spacecraft’s back-away thrusters, which moved the spacecraft away from the sample site (marked with a red “X” in the second of these two images) and agitated dust and boulders on the surface. The image above shows the TAG site and highlights (red circle) a large boulder thrown about 40 feet (about 12 meters). CREDIT: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Overcompensating on the interesting side of things, on one of our days off, NASA released images of the site on the asteroid Bennu where the OSIRIS-REx mission punched an asteroid. I have to say, every time I read or hear about what happened, new details make the story even more interesting. 

The intention was to boop the asteroid with the mission’s sample arm, blast it with an air canister to launch some material into the sample container, and then fly away after just a couple of seconds. This is still what is shown in released animations. What actually happened caused a massive stirring up of material in the crater. As we now know, the mission stabbed its arms into the surface, blasted the air canister while under the surface, and would have kept plunging into the asteroid if it hadn’t used reverse thrusters to escape after its arm was already 0.5 meters into the asteroid. To give you a sense of scale, this crater is roughly the size of a large parking spot, and the mission’s intended boop stirred up this entire region!

More Information

NASA press release

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