NASA announced that its OSIRIS-REx mission is scheduled to depart from the asteroid Bennu and return to Earth on May 10. On October 20, 2020. The spacecraft may have exceeded its requirements to collect an ounce of asteroid matter.
Container OSIRIS-REx expects to deliver its samples to Earth on September 24, 2023. OSIRIS-REx project manager Michael Morrow says leaving the asteroid region in May puts the spacecraft in the “perfect spot” when the departure maneuver consumes the least amount of fuel possible. OSIRIS-REx will require more than 593 mph to change speeds, marking the largest propulsion maneuver for the spacecraft since approaching Benno in October 2018.
Departure in May will also allow the mission team to plan a final flight of the spacecraft at Benno. This final flight was not part of the original mission. The team is studying the feasibility of a final observation to see how contact with the spacecraft changed the asteroid’s surface. If flying is easy, it will take place in early April and will observe the location of the specimen from about two miles away.
Scientists say that the surface of the asteroid was greatly disturbed after the sampling event, and that its collector’s head sank 1.6 feet into the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft bursts also disturbed a large amount of surface material on the asteroid as it burned away.
The plan is for a single flight simulating one of the observation sequences made during the detailed survey phase of the mission in 2019. The spacecraft will photograph the asteroid in full rotation to obtain high-resolution images of the northern and southern hemispheres, along with the equatorial region of the asteroid. The photos will be compared with the photos obtained in 2019.