OSIRIS-REx: The Mission – Infographic
An overview of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
An artist's rendition of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu with its robotic arm. The following details about the mission are presented:
The purpose of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to:
- Collect a sample from a near-Earth asteroid called Bennu, and return the sample to Earth for study;
- Help scientists better determine the orbit of the asteroid; and
- Acquire knowledge about the asteroid's composition, which could give clues about how planets formed and how life on Earth began.
These are the scientific objectives of the mission:
- Collect a sample and return it to Earth;
- Map the asteroid;
- Determine Bennu's physical and chemical properties;
- Measure the orbit deviation caused by sunlight (the Yarkovsky effect); and
- Compare observations with data from telescopes.
What is Canada's contribution to the mission?
The OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) is the Canadian contribution to the spacecraft. OLA made a 3D map of Bennu and helped mission experts select the best site from which to collect the sample.
Why was asteroid Bennu chosen for this mission?
A number of factors make Bennu different from other asteroids. First of all, it is not too far away from Earth. Every six years, Bennu's orbit brings it near Earth – less than 450,000 kilometres away.
Asteroids less than 200 metres wide spin very quickly, which makes it difficult for a spacecraft to safely interact with them. Bennu is nearly 500 metres in size and revolves once every 4.3 hours, slowly enough to collect a sample.
Lastly, Bennu's physical characteristics are of interest to scientists: they want to analyze Bennu's chemistry and mineralogy to learn more about its composition and how it compares to other asteroids.
Here is the mission timeline:
The launch took place in September 2016. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at its destination in 2018. It spent more than a year and a half collecting data and preparing for sample collection. In October 2020, the sample was collected.
The sample is scheduled to return to Earth on September 24, 2023. Bringing a sample to Earth will allow scientists to study Bennu for decades using highly sophisticated instruments and techniques.
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