On Tuesday, OSIRIS-REx successfully touched down on asteroid Bennu. The Touch-and-Go (TAG) attempt was designed to collect a sample of the asteroid’s surface. This material could provide new insights about the formation of our solar system, the origins of life, and more. Following the successful touchdown on Bennu, NASA released a series of GIFs detailing the craft’s descent, collection attempt, and ascent. Two of these GIFs are listed below.
SEE: Photos: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, asteroid Bennu, and other sights from the spacecraft’s journey through our solar system (TechRepublic)
This GIF was created using a series of images from OSIRIS-REx’s SamCam imager. These photos were snapped after touchdown on Bennu as the spacecraft ascended from the asteroid.
During the collection attempt, only the craft’s Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) head came into contact with the Nightingale sampling site on Bennu. NASA received confirmation of the successful touchdown at 6:08 p.m. EDT.
SEE: OSIRIS-REx on Bennu: The mission’s project scientist details “greedy” asteroid sampling, challenges, and more (TechRepublic)
Once positioned on the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx discharged a pressurized nitrogen container to agitate and elevate surface material enabling collection onboard. If the spacecraft gathered enough material on this initial TAG attempt, OSIRIS-REx will stow the sample in preparation for its return to Earth.
However, if tests determine that the craft did not collect enough asteroid material, NASA will plan for a second attempt in January 2021. The craft is able to attempt this collection sample a total of three times using pressurized nitrogen containers onboard and its specially designed TAGSAM.
Overall, OSIRIS-REx spent roughly six seconds on the asteroid’s surface before backing away, according to NASA’s preliminary data. The spacecraft spent about five seconds collecting surface material and the “majority of sample collection occurred within the first three seconds,” according to NASA.
The spacecraft is scheduled to depart Bennu en route for Earth with the sample in tow in the months ahead. If successful, the spacecraft will deliver the sample back to Earth in September 2023. At this time, OSIRIS-REx’s Sample Return Capsule (SRC) and collected material will be parachuted back to Earth and land in the west desert of Utah.