Skip to comments.Here It Is: The Spectacular Footage of NASA Touching Down on an Asteroid
Posted on 10/22/2020 8:35:11 AM PDT by Red Badger
Want a little reminder of how amazingly clever we humans can be? Yesterday, from a distance of more than 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) away, NASA scientists piloted a spacecraft to gently touch down on a spinning asteroid, collecting a sample of surface rubble to bring back home to Earth.
At 6:08 PM EDT, the signal from spacecraft OSIRIS-REx reached Earth to let us know that it had successfully touched down at the Nightingale collection site on asteroid Bennu, within a metre (three feet) of its target, and safely bounced back up again after just 6 seconds of contact.
During this time, the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm hopefully collected a sizeable sample of dust and rock from the asteroid for further comprehensive study.
Yesterday, NASA's live feed of the event showed a CG animation of the touchdown, since OSIRIS-REx's data transfer rate is just 40 bits per second - way too low for a live video feed. But the spacecraft was photographing the process, and now those images have arrived home to be compiled into a spectacular timelapse.
The SamCam imager took a photo every 1.25 seconds, which will allow scientists back here on Earth to study the spacecraft's performance. The above video is made up of 82 photos, covering a five-minute period from an altitude of about 25 metres (82 feet), through the touchdown, then as the spacecraft fires its thrusters to bounce away to an altitude of 13 metres (43 feet).
"Upon initial contact, the TAGSAM head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it," astronomer and OSIRIS-REx scientist Brittany Enos of the University of Arizona wrote in a NASA post.
"One second later, the spacecraft fires a nitrogen gas bottle, which mobilises a substantial amount of the sample site's material. Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material, and the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds."
TAGSAM is designed to collect material by stirring up material, then catching it. The team is hoping for at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of asteroid regolith, but we won't know for a few days exactly how much material OSIRIS-REx managed to snare.
The returned sample, so hard won, will be invaluable. Scientists hope to use its chemical composition to inform asteroid collision avoidance strategies for Earth, and investigate the possibilities of mining asteroids.
Asteroids such as Bennu are thought to be relatively unchanged since their formation in the earliest days of the Solar System. So, the rocks and dust retrieved by OSIRIS-REx will be a rare window into the pristine chemical composition of the dust cloud that birthed the Sun and planets.
As OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona noted, "This is all about understanding our origins, addressing some of the most fundamental questions that we ask ourselves as human beings: Where did we come from? And are we alone in the Universe?"
OSIRIS-REx is due to return to Earth in 2023, contributing to a small but growing pool of asteroid dust. Japan's Hayabusa probe successfully collected and returned a sample of asteroid Itokawa to Earth in 2010.
And last year, we watched Hayabusa2 successfully collect a sample of asteroid Ryugu; it's due to return the sample to Earth in just a few months as it flies past en route to asteroid 1998 KY26 for a 2026 rendezvous.
VIDEO AT LINK..........................
Too bad Pelosi and Schumer didn’t make the trip.
Did Mike Rowe have a crew standing by to do the filming?
NOVA covered it about 3 hours later.
To quote Lee Greenwood:
I’m proud to be an American.
Me too. What other country can achieve this? Those people at JPL are awesome. That’s something to be proud of in California.
The entire sequence that loop was extracted from can be viewed here:
Bear in mind this happened 200 million miles away, which means it takes 18 minutes for radio signals to travel one way. Everything was done under autonomous control by the spacecraft that has been mapping the asteroids surface and creating a Hazard Map since 2018. The actual TAG (touch and go) sample collection occurred in less than 10 seconds as the “reverse vacuum cleaner” contacted the surface.
A great accomplishment by NASA and Lockheed Martin, along with the University of Arizona.
You can download the hi res gif file also. I stepped through it frame by frame, but it will be a couple of days until they perform a moment of inertia experiment to determine how much sample was acquired. It’s possible to make up to two additional attempts if necessary.
“Did Mike Rowe have a crew standing by to do the filming?”
“This little fella has a dirty job to do, but it does it quickly, within seconds, and never complains...”
Nothing against JPL but this was NASA Goddard, and the control room where Tuesdays live broadcast and OSIRIS-REx operations are managed from is at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.
I still want some gold, platinum and dilythum crystals.
I hear the dems didn’t vote on it. :-)
The surface of Bennu looks like the pile of residue left when they broke up the asphalt street in front of my house in preparation for resurfacing it a few years ago. I had heard that the color of the moon was actually about the same color one tone of asphalt. This confirms it.
Asteroids is where God put the leftovers........................
Japan’s JAXA did it 2 years ago with the Hayabusa2 mission — the samples are due to return this December.
What other country can achieve this?
B-b-b-b-b-b-b-Bennu and the jets. Thanks Army Air Corps.
NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Oct. 20, 2020, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.
This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth.
Pickup Oct. 20, 2020, delivery to Earth in 2023.
That is a bit slow. Maybe UPS or Amazon can do it quicker.
Now, the lander has to take off and return to Earth. But will the small push it gives the asteroid while leaving affect Bennu’s orbit? Might it redirect the asteroid to a collision course with Earth? Unintended consequences!
But, if it does so, it proves that hazardous asteroids can be easily redirected if they threaten Earth and are discovered in time.
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