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  • richardmitnick 7:42 am on March 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Goddard: “OSIRIS-REx asteroid search tests instruments, science team” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    March 24, 2017
    Erin Morton
    morton@orex.lpl.arizona.edu
    University of Arizona, Tucson

    Nancy Neal Jones
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    The path of the Main Belt asteroid 12 Victoria, as imaged by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Feb. 11, 2017, during the mission’s Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search. This animation is made of a series of five images taken by the spacecraft’s MapCam camera that were then cropped and centered on Victoria. The images were taken about 51 minutes apart and each was exposed for 10 seconds. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona


    OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

    During an almost two-week search, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission team activated the spacecraft’s MapCam imager and scanned part of the surrounding space for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids — objects that scientists believe may exist in one of the stable regions that co-orbits the sun with Earth. Although no Earth-Trojans were discovered, the spacecraft’s camera operated flawlessly and demonstrated that it could image objects two magnitudes dimmer than originally expected.

    The spacecraft, currently on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, flew through the center of Earth’s fourth Lagrangian area — a stable region 60 degrees in front of Earth in its orbit where scientists believe asteroids may be trapped, such as asteroid 2010 TK7 discovered by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite in 2010. Though no new asteroids were discovered in the region that was scanned, the spacecraft’s cameras MapCam and PolyCam successfully acquired and imaged Jupiter and several of its moons, as well as Main Belt asteroids.

    “The Earth-Trojan Asteroid Search was a significant success for the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “In this first practical exercise of the mission’s science operations, the mission team learned so much about this spacecraft’s capabilities and flight operations that we are now ahead of the game for when we get to Bennu.”

    The Earth Trojan survey was designed primarily as an exercise for the mission team to rehearse the hazard search the spacecraft will perform as it approaches its target asteroid Bennu. This search will allow the mission team to avoid any natural satellites that may exist around the asteroid as the spacecraft prepares to collect a sample to return to Earth in 2023 for scientific study.

    The spacecraft’s MapCam imager, in particular, performed much better than expected during the exercise. Based on the camera’s design specifications, the team anticipated detecting four Main Belt asteroids. In practice, however, the camera was able to detect moving asteroids two magnitudes fainter than expected and imaged a total of 17 Main Belt asteroids. This indicates that the mission will be able to detect possible hazards around Bennu earlier and from a much greater distance that originally planned, further reducing mission risk.

    Scientists are still analyzing the implications of the search’s results for the potential population of Earth-Trojan asteroids and will publish conclusions after a thorough study of mission data.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information on OSIRIS-REx, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osirisrex and http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on February 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth-Trojan asteroid search, , NASA OSIRIS-REx, ,   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “OSIRIS-REx begins search for Earth-Trojan asteroids” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    February 15th, 2017
    Jim Sharkey

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    1
    An artist’s rendering of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s survey pattern during its Earth-Trojan asteroid search (not to scale). The search started on Feb. 9, 2017, and will continue until Feb. 20, 2017, as the spacecraft transits the Earth’s L4 Lagrangian region. Image Credit: University of Arizona

    On Feb. 9, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft began searching for an elusive type of near-Earth object known as Earth-Trojan asteroids. The spacecraft, currently on a two-year outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, will spend nearly two weeks looking for evidence of these small bodies.

    2
    OSIRIS-REX searches for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids in Earth’s L4 Lagrange point. Image Credit: NASA

    Trojan asteroids are trapped inside stable gravity wells called Lagrange points, which precede or follow a planet as it orbits the Sun. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently traveling through Earth’s fourth Lagrange point (L4), which is approximately 90 million miles (150 million kilometers) away.

    The mission team will take multiple images of the area with OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam camera in the hope of detecting Earth-Trojan asteroids in the region.

    While researchers have discovered only one Earth-Trojan to date, asteroid 2010 TK7, thousands of Trojan asteroids have been found accompanying other planets, mostly around Jupiter. Researchers predict that there should be more Trojans sharing Earth’s orbit, but they are hard to find from Earth because they appear near the Sun on the horizon.

    “Because the Earth’s fourth Lagrange point is relatively stable, it is possible that remnants of the material that built Earth are trapped within it,” said Dante Lauretta. “So this search gives us a unique opportunity to explore the primordial building blocks of Earth.”

    Each day during the search, OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam will take 135 survey images that will be processed and analyzed by the mission’s imaging team at the University of Arizona, Tuscon. During the survey, MapCam will also image Jupiter, several galaxies, and main belt asteroids 55 Pandora, 47 Aglaja, and 12 Victoria.

    The search will continue until Feb. 20.

    The survey will be beneficial even if no new asteroids are discovered as the operations involved in searching for Trojans are similar to those required to search for natural satellites and other hazards around Bennu when the spacecraft approaches it in 2018.

    Practicing these kinds of mission-critical operations in advance will help OSIRIS-REx once the spacecraft arrives at Bennu.


    Video courtesy of NASA / University of Arizona

    See the full article here .

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    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:14 pm on February 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroid 2010 TK7, , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Astronomy Now: “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe moonlights as asteroid sleuth” 

    Astronomy Now bloc

    Astronomy Now

    1 February 2017
    Stephen Clark

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    1
    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undertake a search for Earth-Trojan asteroids while on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu. Earth Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with Earth while remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. Credit: University of Arizona/Heather Roper

    On course to collect specimens from asteroid Bennu after its launch last year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will search this month for objects sharing an orbit with Earth, a bonus science opportunity to locate possible fragments of the primordial building blocks that formed our home planet.

    The long-range observations begin Feb. 9 and run through Feb. 20, using one of the probe’s cameras to look for asteroids embedded in swarms scientists believe lurk ahead of and behind Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

    Named Earth-Trojans, the objects likely group in clouds at Sun-Earth Lagrange points, where the combined pull of gravity from the bodies would allow asteroids to orbit in lock-step with Earth. The so-called L4 and L5 Lagrange points lead and follow Earth by 60 degrees in its path around the Sun.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA
    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    The same positions in front of and behind Jupiter harbour thousands of Trojan asteroids, and smaller Trojan swarms have been discovered near Venus, Mars, Uranus and Neptune.

    It turns out OSIRIS-REx is about to pass through the Sun-Earth L4 Lagrange point, and managers decided to scan the region where Earth-Trojans might be located to see what the spacecraft can find.

    Now located nearly 74 million miles (119 million kilometres) from Earth, OSIRIS-REx is on a seven year-journey to asteroid Bennu and back, charged with gathering rock samples from the mountain-sized object and delivering them to scientists for examination inside laboratories on the ground.

    Since its launch Sept. 8, 2016, OSIRIS-REx has switched on all of its science instruments and performed a major course correction maneuver to aim for a flyby of Earth this Sept. 22. Earth’s gravity will slingshot the spacecraft toward Bennu.

    2
    A rendering of Bennu, the target asteroid of the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission. Bringing back a sample from Bennu will help scientists better understand how the solar system, including Earth, was formed. No image credit.

    The Dec. 28 burn changed OSIRIS-REx’s speed by 964 mph (431 metres per second) and consumed a quarter of the probe’s propellant supply. The maneuver was the largest of the mission until the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft’s arrival burn at Bennu in August 2018.

    3
    Artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s deep space maneuver. Credit: NASA

    Another small “clean-up” thruster firing Jan. 18 further tweaked OSIRIS-REx’s trajectory, and the spacecraft switched over to its high-power antenna Jan. 25 to beam data back to Earth at faster rates.

    The milestones clear the way for the mission’s first science campaign next week.

    “The Earth-Trojan asteroid search provides a substantial advantage to the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator from the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Not only do we have the opportunity to discover new members of an asteroid class, but more importantly, we are practicing critical mission operations in advance of our arrival at Bennu, which ultimately reduces mission risk.”

    Only one of the elusive Earth-Trojans has been detected to date.

    Astronomers using NASA’s WISE infrared telescope confirmed the discovery of an asteroid in 2011 that fit the definition of an Earth-Trojan.

    NASA/WISE Telescope
    NASA/WISE Telescope

    Asteroid 2010 TK7 is about 1,000 feet (300 metres) in diameter, and experts predict its extreme orbit, which takes it far above and below the plane of the planets, will be stable for at least the next several thousand years.

    3
    Scientists consider 2010 TK7 an outlier of a large group of asteroids sharing Earth’s orbit, some of which may have been there since the solar system formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.
    The University of Western Ontario and CFHT

    “The orbital motion of 2010 TK7 is chaotic and unstable on billion-year timescales, and it is unlikely to be a remnant from the formation of the Earth,” Lauretta wrote in a blog post describing the upcoming observing campaign. “The existence and size of a primordial population of Earth-Trojans (genuine remnants of the building blocks of our planet) are not well constrained and represents a significant gap in our inventory of small bodies in near-Earth space.”

    Earth-Trojans are difficult to find from the ground because they are usually in daylight, and the WISE spacecraft orbiting Earth detected 2010 TK7 because its unique orbit oscillates farther from the sun’s position in the sky than most members of the group.

    Current ground-based surveys are only sensitive to Earth-Trojan asteroids bigger than about 3,000 feet, or approximately 1 kilometre, said Carl Hergenrother, an OSIRIS-REx staff scientist at the University of Arizona.

    4
    This artist’s concept illustrates the first known Earth-Trojan asteroid, discovered by NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting portion of NASA’s WISE mission. The asteroid is shown in gray and its extreme orbit is shown in green. Earth’s orbit around the sun is indicated by blue dots. The objects are not drawn to scale. Credit: Paul Wiegert, University of Western Ontario, Canada

    By mid-February, OSIRIS-REx will be “an ideal spot to undertake a survey,” Lauretta wrote.

    Between Feb. 9 and Feb. 20, the spacecraft’s mapping camera will take 145 pictures per day of the volume of space where Earth-Trojans are expected to reside, according to Lauretta.

    “It’s a big cloud, and there should be material there,” Hergenrother said at a Jan. 12 meeting of NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group. “We should be able to detect stuff down to 100 metres (330 feet), and possibly even smaller, depending on the performance of our cameas, and the albedo (reflectivity).

    “If we don’t find anything, it either means there’s a lot less objects out there than we were thinking, or they’re a lot smaller,” Hergenrother said.

    While Lauretta said there is a scientific motivation for the Earth-Trojan search, the top reason for the campaign is to practice techniques the OSIRIS-REx science team plans to employ once the spacecraft arrives at Bennu.

    On approach to Bennu, the probe’s cameras will look near the asteroid to hunt for tiny miniature moons as small as 4 inches (10 centimetres). Navigators want to know the location of any debris around Bennu to prevent a crash with the spacecraft.

    Jupiter and several large distant asteroids will be imaged by OSIRIS-REx’s camera when it scans for Earth-Trojans. The images will help the ground team rehearse the complex real-time in-space navigation the mission requires during the rendezvous with Bennu, along with the identification of moving targets mimicking the behaviour of potential mini-moons surrounding the asteroid.

    Although the scientific objectives are secondary, Lauretta said his team is excited about the prospect of making a discovery so early in the mission.

    “We’ll clearly be able to set an upper limit on what’s out there because we know what we could detect if it was there,” Lauretta said at the Jan. 12 science meeting.

    OSIRIS-REx could also discover an asteroid from another family that just happens to pass through the camera’s field-of-view, Lauretta said. But scientists will pin down the orbit of any object OSIRIS-REx detects, and an Earth-Trojan asteroid locked in a stable orbit could be evidence of a larger cloud of mini-worlds hidden from view.

    “Is this dynamically stable? Could it be a primordial Earth object?” Lauretta asked, posing questions scientists will have if OSIRIS-REx finds anything starting next week. “That would be the most fascinating thing that we could discover.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:15 pm on January 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx,   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “OSIRIS-REx begins hunt for elusive trojan asteroids” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    After successfully launching in September of last year (2016), OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) has been given a new task – to hunt for trojan asteroids that may pose a danger to Earth.

    Trojan asteroids are rocky or metallic objects that orbit in stable areas called Lagrange points. Specifically, they are located 60 degrees ahead or behind the host body in its orbit around the Sun: L-4 and L-5. Asteroids in these gravity pockets can remain in the same orbit undisturbed for centuries.

    LaGrange Points map. NASA
    LaGrange Points map. NASA

    2
    NASA launched OSIRIS-REx in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral’s 41 in Florida (atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket). Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

    3
    Final pieces of OSIRIS-REx come together during ATLO phase of mission

    NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx ) is fast-approaching the day when it will take to the skies and travel to the asteroid Bennu. The space probe’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, issued a release noting that the spacecraft’s final components were being assembled in a clean room at…
    April 1, 2015. No image credit

    Six planets are known to have these asteroids, with Jupiter’s being the most famous. So far, only one Earth trojan has been discovered, but it is likely there are dozens, possibly hundreds, more of these celestial objects.

    The danger from these types of asteroids is that because of their orientation between the Earth and the Sun, they are very difficult to locate and track.

    According to a report appearing on Nature World News, some scientists think that a Mars-sized trojan object collided with Earth, creating a cloud of debris that eventually formed the Moon. This collision is also thought to potentially be responsible for Earth’s over-sized core.

    In order to effectively detect trojans, you need to get the observing device away from Earth. OSIRIS-REx does just this as it makes its way to Bennu, a primitive asteroid whose 1.2-year orbit brings it within Earth’s path.

    OSIRIS-REx will use its MapCam to look in the areas where these objects are most likely to reside and catalog their locations. This is the same instrument scientists plan to use at Bennu to look for small satellite objects around the asteroid. Here, the MapCam will pull double duty as the two processes are very similar.

    The primary mission of the spacecraft is to study Bennu and return a sample back to Earth. The mission will arrive at the asteroid in 2018.

    According to SpaceFlight 101, using a device called TAGSAM (Touch-And-Go-Sample Acquisition Mechanism), OSIRIS-REx will collect a small sample and then bounce off the surface of the asteroid. The spacecraft is then scheduled to return that sample to Earth in 2023.

    Detailed studies of the asteroid will also help determine if Bennu is a potential threat to Earth as some orbital models show a possible impact occurring sometime next century.

    OSIRIS-REx was sent on its way toward Bennu via a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket on Sept. 8, 2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:40 pm on December 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Goddard: “NASA Mission to Search for Rare Asteroids” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Dec. 12, 2016
    Nancy Neal Jones
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    1
    In February 2017, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will undertake a search for Earth-Trojan asteroids while on its outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu. Earth Trojans are asteroids that share an orbit with Earth while remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet.
    Credits: University of Arizona/Heather Roper.

    NASA’s first mission to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth will be multitasking during its two-year outbound cruise to the asteroid Bennu. On Feb. 9-20, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security– Regolith Explorer) spacecraft will activate its onboard camera suite and commence a search for elusive “Trojan” asteroids.

    Trojans are asteroids that are constant companions to planets in our solar system as they orbit the sun, remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. Because they constantly lead or follow in the same orbit, they will never collide with their companion planet.

    There are six planets in our solar system with known Trojan asteroids—Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Venus, Uranus and, yes, even Earth. The Earth Trojan is elusive; to date, scientists have only discovered one Earth trojan asteroid — 2010 TK7 — found by NASA’s NEOWISE project in 2010.

    NASA/NEOWISE
    NASA/NEOWISE

    Yet there are more than 6,000 known Trojans that are co-orbiting the sun with the gas giant Jupiter.

    Scientists predict that there should be more Trojans sharing Earth’s orbit, but these asteroids are difficult to detect from Earth because they appear close to the sun from Earth’s point of view. In mid-February 2017, however, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be positioned in an ideal spot to undertake a survey.

    Over 12 days, the OSIRIS-REx Earth-Trojan asteroid search will employ the spacecraft’s MapCam imager to methodically scan the space where Earth Trojans are expected to exist. Many of these observations will closely resemble MapCam’s planned activities during its upcoming search for satellites of asteroid Bennu, so the Trojan asteroid search serves as an early rehearsal for the mission’s primary science operations.

    “The Earth-Trojan asteroid search provides a substantial advantage to the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Not only do we have the opportunity to discover new members of an asteroid class, but more importantly, we are practicing critical mission operations in advance of our arrival at Bennu, which ultimately reduces mission risk.”

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently on a seven-year journey to rendezvous with, study, and bring a sample of Bennu to Earth. This sample of a primitive asteroid will help scientists understand the formation of our solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

    2
    No image caption. No image credit.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    See the full article here .

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.
    NASA Goddard campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
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  • richardmitnick 12:26 pm on August 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx, OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA)   

    From Goddard: “NASA to Map Asteroid Bennu from the Ground Up” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Aug. 11, 2016
    Sarah Schlieder
    sarah.schlieder@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

    1
    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Debbie McCallum. phys.org

    How do you study the topography of an asteroid millions of miles away? Map it with a robotic cartographer!

    NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will launch in September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    But before the science team can select a sample site, it needs to know a little something about the asteroid’s topography.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, or OLA, is provided by the Canadian Space Agency and will be used to create three-dimensional global topographic maps of Bennu and local maps of candidate sample sites.

    “OLA will measure the asteroid’s topography and shape in a detail that is unprecedented compared to other asteroid missions,” said Michael Daly, OLA instrument scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada. ” This 3-D shape will be the foundational dataset for the other instruments.”

    Think of your favorite computer animated movie. The characters and environment are colored and shaded in such a way that they look almost lifelike. But all of those details need a 3-D shape in order to take form. The same is true for the detailed data gathered by OSIRIS-REx’s instruments.

    To create these 3-D models, OLA uses LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging. LIDAR is similar to radar, but uses light instead of radio waves to measure distance. OLA will emit infrared laser pulses toward the surface of Bennu as the spacecraft moves around the asteroid. The laser pulses reflect back from the surface to a detector. The team will measure the time difference between outgoing and incoming pulses to calculate the distance between the spacecraft and Bennu.

    LIDAR has been used on prior spacecraft, including the Mars Global Surveyor and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Those laser altimeters are fixed to the spacecraft, meaning that the laser pulse will only travel in the direction that the spacecraft is pointing. This can limit the coverage and spatial resolution of their topographic maps. So, while they have generated a vast amount of data, fixed LIDAR are not ideal for missions where the data must be gathered quickly.

    “OLA is the first scanning LIDAR to fly on a planetary mission,” said Beau Bierhaus, an OLA team member at Lockheed Martin. “Because the LIDAR can articulate independently of the spacecraft, the LIDAR provides improved operational flexibility, and more importantly, much greater spatial coverage and resolution.”


    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will provide a three-dimenional map of asteroid Bennu’s shape, which will allow scientists to understand the context of the asteroid’s geography and the sample location. OLA is provided by the Canadian Space Agency in exchange for Canadian ownership of a portion of the returned asteroid sample.
    Credits: Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space flight Center/Katrina Jackson
    This video is public domain and can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio.

    OLA is expected to thoroughly map Bennu with about 6 billion measurements of the asteroid’s surface, which measures about one-third of a mile (one-half kilometer) in diameter. In comparison, the laser altimeter on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has received more than 6.8 billion measurements of the surface of the moon, which has a diameter of about 2,159 miles (3,500 kilometers).

    The fundamental data of the asteroid’s shape and topography that OLA will provide are essential for several key phases during the mission.

    The science team will use the high-resolution topographic data, in conjunction with camera images and on-board navigation algorithms, to navigate around the asteroid and guide the spacecraft to the selected sample site.

    “We’re measuring topography down to one centimeter,” said Olivier Barnouin, the Altimetry Working Group lead at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “We’re looking at an asteroid at a scale that no other mission has before. We don’t want to be off in some unknown area during sample acquisition.”

    The three-dimensional maps will also give geologic context to the returned asteroid sample. Just as geologists on Earth document where they collect their samples in the field on topographic maps, OLA will allow the science team to take their measurements and observations of the collected sample and apply them to their broader understanding of Bennu.

    OLA will also allow the science team to study how regolith, or loose surface material, behaves in a microgravity environment. Scientists have done similar studies on the moon and Mars, but unlike Bennu, these bodies have relatively high gravity.

    “What happens on asteroids is that you take that gravity dial and turn it way down,” Bierhaus said. “The dynamics of how regolith moves on the surface of the asteroid are foreign to us. OLA data will give us a greater understanding of how granular material behaves in space.”

    This understanding is especially important for future asteroid missions. Scientists will need to know how regolith behaves in micro-gravity environments if we want to send astronauts to an asteroid someday to collect samples.

    “Collaborating on this project reminds us of the unique relationship between Canada and the United States,” said Daly. “It provides both countries access to additional technological expertise and people that they would not otherwise have.”

    Goddard will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 3:54 pm on July 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Goddard: “NASA to Map the Surface of an Asteroid” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    July 25, 2016
    Sarah Schlieder
    sarah.schlieder@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The science team will be looking for something special. Ideally, the sample will come from a region in which the building blocks of life may be found.

    NASA OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft

    To identify these regions on Bennu, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) team equipped the spacecraft with an instrument that will measure the spectral signatures of Bennu’s mineralogical and molecular components.

    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS
    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS


    The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer, or OVIRS, will look at the asteroid’s spectral signature to detect organics and other minerals.

    Known as OVIRS (short for the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer), the instrument will measure visible and near-infrared light reflected and emitted from the asteroid and split the light into its component wavelengths, much like a prism that splits sunlight into a rainbow.

    “OVIRS is key to our search for organics on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “In particular, we will rely on it to find the areas of Bennu rich in organic molecules to identify possible sample sites of high science value, as well as the asteroid’s general composition.”

    OVIRS will work in tandem with another OSIRIS-REx instrument — the Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES. While OVIRS maps the asteroid in the visible and near infrared, OTES picks up in the thermal infrared. This allows the science team to map the entire asteroid over a range of wavelengths that are most interesting to scientists searching for organics and water, and help them to select the best site for retrieving a sample.

    In the visible and infrared spectrum, minerals and other materials have unique signatures like fingerprints. These fingerprints allow scientists to identify various organic materials, as well as carbonates, silicates and absorbed water, on the surface of the asteroid. The data returned by OVIRS and OTES will actually allow scientists to make a map of the relative abundance of various materials across Bennu’s surface.

    “I can’t think of a spectral payload that has been quite this comprehensive before,” said Dennis Reuter, OVIRS instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    OVIRS will be active during key phases throughout the mission. As the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaches Bennu, OVIRS will view one entire hemisphere at a time to measure how the spectrum changes as the asteroid rotates, allowing scientists to compare ground-based observations to those from the spacecraft. Once at the asteroid, OVIRS will gather spectral data and create detailed maps of the surface and help in the selection of a sample site.

    Using information gathered by OVIRS and OTES from the visible to the thermal infrared, the science team will also study the Yarkovsky Effect, or how Bennu’s orbit is affected by surface heating and cooling throughout its day. The asteroid is warmed by sunlight and re-emits thermal radiation in different directions as it rotates. This asymmetric thermal emission gives Bennu a small but steady push, thus changing its orbit over time. Understanding this effect will help scientists study Bennu’s orbital path, improve our understanding of the Yarkovsky effect, and improve our predictions of its influence on the orbits of other asteroids.

    But despite its capabilities to perform complex science, OVIRS is surprisingly inexpensive and compact in its design. The entire spectrometer operates at 10 watts, requiring less power than a standard household light bulb.

    “When you put it into that perspective, you can see just how efficient this instrument is, even though it is taking extremely complicated science measurements,” said Amy Simon, deputy instrument scientist for OVIRS at Goddard. “We’ve put a big job in a compact instrument.”

    Unlike most spectrometers, OVIRS has no moving parts, reducing the risk of a malfunction.

    “We designed OVIRS to be robust and capable of lasting a long time in space,” Reuter said. “Think of how many times you turn on your computer and something doesn’t work right or it just won’t start up. We can’t have that type of thing happen during the mission.”

    Drastic temperature changes in space will put the instrument’s robust design to the test. OVIRS is a cryogenic instrument, meaning that it must be at very low temperatures to produce the best data. Generally, it doesn’t take much for something to stay cool in space. That is, until it comes in contact with direct sunlight.

    Heat inside OVIRS would increase the amount of thermal radiation and scattered light, interfering with the infrared data. To avoid this risk, the scientists anodized the spectrometer’s interior coating. Anodizing increases a metal’s resistance to corrosion and wear. Anodized coatings can also help reduce scattered light, lowering the risk of compromising OVIRS’ observations.

    The team also had to plan for another major threat: water. The scientists will search for traces of water when they scout the surface for a sample site. Because the team will be searching for tiny water levels on Bennu’s surface, any water inside OVIRS would skew the results. And while the scientists don’t have to worry about a torrential downpour in space, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft may accumulate moisture while resting on its launch pad in Florida’s humid environment.

    Immediately after launch, the team will turn on heaters on the instrument to bake off any water. The heat will not be intense enough to cause any damage to OVIRS, and the team will turn the heaters off once all of the water has evaporated.

    “There are always challenges that we don’t know about until we get there, but we try to plan for the ones that we know about ahead of time,” said Simon.

    OVIRS will be essential for helping the team choose the best sample site. Its data and maps will give the scientists a picture of what is present on Bennu’s surface.

    In addition to OVIRS, Goddard will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 12:56 pm on July 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NASA OSIRIS-REx,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Instrument to Use X-Rays to Map an Asteroid” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    July 12, 2016
    Sarah Schlieder
    sarah.schlieder@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    REXIS. No image caption. No image credit.

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. But before the science team selects a sample site, they can find out a bit about Bennu’s elemental make-up.

    NASA OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft
    NASA/OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft

    To determine the composition of Bennu’s surface, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) team equipped the spacecraft with an instrument that will identify which elements are present on the asteroid and measure their abundance.


    NASAs OSIRIS-REx mission launches in September 2016 and plans to return a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth in 2023.
    Access mp4 video here .

    The Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer, or REXIS can image X-ray emission from Bennu in order to provide an elemental abundance map of the asteroid’s surface.

    “REXIS is different from the other imaging instruments on OSIRIS-REx because we’re going to determine what Bennu is made of at the level of individual atomic elements,” said Richard Binzel, REXIS principal investigator and instrument scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge. “We’re sniffing the atoms on the surface of Bennu.”

    To do that, REXIS gets a little help from the sun. Atoms on Bennu’s surface absorb incoming solar X-rays that are emitted along with the solar wind. This causes electrons in the atom to move to a higher energy level. However, because these excited electrons are unstable, they quickly de-excite and drop back down to their original energy level and emit their own X-ray in turn. This process is known as fluorescence.

    “You have all this energy coming in, and it kicks electrons up to the next energy level, but the electrons quickly decay back down and emit X-rays of precisely that same energy,” said Josh Grindlay, REXIS co-principal investigator and deputy instrument scientist at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. “The net result is a glowing surface on Bennu.”

    The energies of the re-emitted X-rays are characteristic of the elements from which they came. Elements absorb and re-emit X-rays at different, specific energies. The energies that the science team will see glowing at Bennu’s surface will tell the researchers which elements are present.

    In order to map these emitted X-rays, REXIS is fitted with what’s known as a coded aperture mask. The mask consists of a pattern of pinholes that, when X-rays shine through, creates a shadow pattern on REXIS’ detector.

    Imagine sitting in your bedroom at night and a car drives by. The headlights cast a pattern of light and shadow on the walls. As the car moves, so do the shadows. In REXIS’ case, it’s the spacecraft that moves over the asteroid surface. The changing shadow patterns allow the team to identify any particular bright spots on Bennu that might be especially abundant in a certain element.

    REXIS was selected as a Student Collaboration Experiment for the OSIRIS-REx mission. Built by a team from MIT and Harvard, students will perform data analysis of REXIS as part of their coursework.

    “This has been an amazing experience for the students,” said Rebecca Masterson, REXIS co-principal investigator and instrument manager at MIT. “They get to see how a mission evolves and what it takes to get to the point of launch. They’re getting to see how an idea goes from conception to completion and actually play a role in its success.”

    More than 100 students will have been involved in REXIS upon the completion of the OSIRIS-REx mission.

    “Even though OSIRIS-REx hasn’t left the ground, I think REXIS is already a success,” said David Miller, NASA’s chief technologist and a former REXIS team lead at MIT. “We’ve inspired so many students. They are our next generation of space scientists and engineers, and they’ve already had a profound impact on our abilities to go further and explore deep space.”

    Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 8:34 pm on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Gears up for 3-D Mapping on the Fly” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    June 29, 2016
    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov
    NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

    Scheduled for launch on Sept. 8, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will travel to an asteroid, study it and return a sample to Earth for analysis. All of these goals depend on accurate mapping of the target, Bennu, so the team is gearing up for the challenges of cartography of an asteroid.

    1
    Bennu with OSIRIS-REx

    NASA OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-Rex Spacecraft

    “Mapping of Bennu is necessary, of course, but it’s also an exciting and technically interesting aspect of the mission,” said Ed Beshore, OSIRIS-REx deputy principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The mission is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    The maps will be generated using information gathered by the five instruments aboard OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. Upon its rendezvous with Bennu, the spacecraft will spend a year surveying the asteroid for both scientific and operations purposes – including searching for plumes of material coming from the asteroid, measuring non-gravitational forces acting on Bennu, and identifying the best location to collect a sample.

    Most of the mapping work will be done during this survey phase. The team will document the shape of the asteroid, generate a suite of top-level maps, and perform reconnaissance on the final few candidates on the list of possible sampling sites. The reconnaissance maps will be so detailed that team members will be able to spot individual pebbles measuring about three-fourths of an inch (2 centimeters) across – roughly the maximum size of material that the sampling head can collect.

    “Everything the spacecraft learns will be woven together like a tapestry to tell the story of Bennu,” said Kevin Walsh, an OSIRIS-REx co-investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

    In the meantime, the groundwork for mapping is being laid.

    The underlying framework is a 3-D shape model. This step is crucial because asteroids, unlike planets and moons, aren’t nice and round. They tend to be bumpy and irregular, often like potatoes. Bennu is more of a lumpy ball that gets thicker around the middle – a shape astronomers compare to a spinning top.

    This rough shape was determined from radar studies conducted from Earth since the asteroid’s discovery in 1999. After OSIRIS-REx surveys Bennu, a new model that captures the subtleties of the asteroid’s shape will be developed.

    For the global maps, information from the spacecraft’s instruments will be overlaid on the shape model. The team plans to incorporate some of these 3-D maps as a routine part of mission-critical operations. Three top-level operations maps are planned: one to evaluate which areas are safe enough to allow the spacecraft to move close to the asteroid, one to determine where the sampling arm can make good contact with the surface to perform its touch-and-go maneuver, and one to indicate where to find the material most suitable for sampling. A fourth top-level map will evaluate how scientifically valuable different regions of the asteroid are.

    “These four maps will be the key to selecting a sampling site,” said Lucy Lim, OSIRIS-REx assistant project scientist at Goddard. “To make sure the map-making goes smoothly once we arrive at Bennu, we started developing the algorithms and practicing all the steps long before launch.”

    Preparations also include establishing map conventions, such as specifying which of Bennu’s poles is north. The team based this decision on the direction of the asteroid’s rotation – a choice that fits with guidelines from the International Astronomical Union. Bennu spins in the direction opposite to Earth, so the asteroid’s poles are reversed compared to our planet’s poles.

    The location of Bennu’s prime meridian – zero degrees longitude – also has been chosen. It runs through a large bump seen on the preliminary shape model. Later, this selection will be refined, or perhaps redefined, depending on what Bennu looks like up close.

    “We make as many decisions about mapping as we can ahead of time, because the work will be intensive once we arrive at Bennu,” said Daniella DellaGiustina, the OSIRIS-REx lead image processing scientist at the University of Arizona. “But we have to allow some flexibility to make changes later, if we need to.”

    Navigation is another special consideration when mapping Bennu. Because the asteroid is so small, its gravitational force is very weak, accounting for only about half of the total force the orbiting spacecraft will feel when it’s close to Bennu. The other half will come from pressure due to sunlight on the surface of the spacecraft.

    The pressure exerted by sunlight is difficult to model, so the navigation team will have to perform frequent updates – perhaps daily. The instrument teams will have to adjust quickly to the changes in plans.

    “This won’t be an orbit the way we usually think of one – that’s how important this force will be,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics system manager at Goddard. “OSIRIS-REx is going to take this work to a new level at Bennu.”

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    Launch management is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    OSIRIS-Rex instruments

    NASA OSIRIS REX OLA
    NASA OSIRIS REX OLA

    NASA OSIRIS REX OTES
    NASA OSIRIS REX OTES

    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS
    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS

    NASA OSIRIS REX FEROS
    NASA OSIRIS REX FEROS

    These instruments will be dealt with in future posts.

    For more information on OSIRIS-REx visit:
    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex
    and
    http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 10:17 am on December 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA OSIRIS-REx   

    From Goddard: “International Instrument Delivered for NASA’s 2016 Asteroid Sample Return Mission” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    Goddard Space Flight Center

    Dec. 17, 2015
    Nancy Neal Jones
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-0039
    Nancy.N.Jones@nasa.gov

    1
    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency, will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. Credits: NASA/Goddard/Debbie McCallum /NASA

    A sophisticated laser-based mapping instrument has arrived at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver for integration onto NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.

    The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA), contributed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), will create 3-D maps of asteroid Bennu to help the mission team select a sample collection site.

    “The OSIRIS-REx Project has worked very closely with our partner CSA and their contractor MDA to get this critical instrument delivered to the spacecraft contractor’s facility,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We are very pleased with the performance of the instrument and look forward to its contribution to our mission.”

    OLA is an advanced LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) system that will scan the entire surface of the asteroid to create a highly accurate, 3-D shape model of Bennu. This will provide mission scientists with fundamental data on the asteroid’s shape, topography (distribution of boulders, rocks and other surface features), surface processes and evolution. An accurate shape model will also be an important tool for navigators as they maneuver the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft around the 500-meter-wide (0.3-mile-wide) asteroid. In exchange for providing the OLA instrument, CSA will receive a portion of the returned asteroid sample for study by Canadian scientists.

    “OLA will measure the shape and topography of Bennu to a much higher fidelity and with much greater efficiency than any planetary science mission has achieved,” said Michael Daly, OLA instrument lead at York University, Toronto. “This information is essential to understanding the evolution and current state of the asteroid. It also provides invaluable information in aid of retrieving a sample of Bennu for return to Earth.”

    After launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample back to Earth for study. Scientists expect that Bennu may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth. OSIRIS-REx’s investigation will also inform future efforts to develop a mission to mitigate an asteroid impact on Earth, should one be required.

    “The data received from OLA will be key to determining a safe sample site on Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “This instrument is a valuable addition to the spacecraft, and I appreciate our Canadian partners’ hard work and contribution to the OSIRIS-REx mission.”

    The laser altimeter was built for CSA by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and its partner, Optech. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to ship from Lockheed Martin’s facility to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida in May 2016, where it will undergo final preparations for launch.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta is the mission’s principal investigator at the University of Arizona. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is building the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    For more information on OSIRIS-REx visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

    and

    http://www.asteroidmission.org

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
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