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OSIRIS-REx news - 2018

Canadian OLA instrument scans asteroid Bennu


This image of Bennu is a composite of 12 images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s PolyCam imager from a distance of 24 kilometres. (Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

On , after a two-year journey of over two billion kilometres, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft finally reached its destination: asteroid Bennu.

One day later, Canadian instrument OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) began firing its laser during the mission's Preliminary Survey phase, gathering the first ever scanning lidar data from an asteroid.

OLA's first pass was followed by a successful health checkup. The instrument's engineering team performed a complete assessment that found that OLA is operating as expected.

In total, the instrument will spend about one year using concentrated beams of light to measure the shape of Bennu's entire surface, creating a 3D map that will help scientists choose a safe and scientifically rich sample site.

Over the remainder of the Preliminary Survey phase, the spacecraft will perform flyovers of Bennu's north pole, equatorial region, and south pole at a distance of seven kilometres. Further mission phases will see the spacecraft fly ever closer to the asteroid's surface until it retrieves a sample in .

The sample, which could contain up to two kilograms of asteroid material, will be brought to Earth in . Canada will receive a portion of the sample, and Canadian scientists will analyze it to help unravel some of the mysteries of the early solar system.

OSIRIS-REx closes in on Bennu, begins approach phase with first asteroid snapshot

The first image of Bennu, seen as a small point of light, was captured by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at a distance of 2.2 million kilometers. Throughout its approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will gradually get closer to the asteroid and send more images back to Earth. (Credit: NASA)

After traveling toward asteroid Bennu for nearly two years, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has officially begun its approach phase.

On NASA released the first snapshot of Bennu, taken at a distance of 2.2 million kilometers, equivalent to six times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Over the next four months, OSIRIS-REx will fly ever closer to Bennu while returning more images of the asteroid to Earth.

The spacecraft will begin the mission's asteroid science operations in . For approximately one year, Canadian instrument OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) will map Bennu's surface to create a 3D map that will help scientists choose a sample site.

OSIRIS-REx is Canada's first participation in an asteroid sample-return mission. In exchange for providing OLA, Canada will receive a portion of the collected sample, enabling Canadian science for generations to come.

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