The third vertex concerns investigations that try to discover the origin of life as we know it. “This asteroid is very rich in carbon. Given the relatively low temperatures that exist in these asteroids, there is the formation of complex organic molecules, which somehow are the basis of life. This is the case with amino acids, which have already been found in space “, adds Pedro Machado:” So we can see how the bricks of life, the molecules that build life as we know it, arrived here “.
NASA has everything planned to the minute to successfully meet these scientific goals. Preparations for the sampling operation begin four hours and 48 minutes before the OSIRIS-REx comes in contact with the asteroid, but everything starts to be broadcast live from 10 pm on Tuesday until 11:30 pm.
Here’s how it will happen:
Four hours and 48 minutes from collection, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will rotate to point the thrusters in the proper position to escape the orbit of the asteroid Bennu.
Twenty-seven minutes later, the thrusters of the Attitude Control System are fired, which guides the vehicle and which, once activated, allows it to leave the most stable orbit it is currently in, about a kilometer from the asteroid.
Four hours and two minutes before the operation, the arm that takes the samples – TAGSAM (acronym of the English expression for “Toca-e-Foge Sample Acquisition Mechanism”) – is slowly stretched into the correct position.
Three hours and 29 minutes from collection, the ship performs a second rotation that allows the navigation cameras to be pointed at Bennu. These cameras will collect images of the asteroid, which will be used by the navigation system.
Thirty-three minutes later, the cameras start taking the photos. OSIRIS-REx will use these images with a photo catalog embedded in the ship, allowing to identify features and automatically determine the vehicle’s location.
Two hours and 21 minutes before collection, the thermal emission spectrometer begins to gather data on the surface temperature and mineral composition of the asteroid.
Forty-three minutes from the operation, OSIRIS-REx rotates again to point the arm and the navigation camera at the surface of the asteroid. This will be the final orientation of the ship.
Seven minutes later, the spacecraft’s solar panels rotate to have a “Y” shape, pointing towards the sun and away from the Bennu’s surface. This process takes 10 minutes.
When there are 31 minutes until the collection, one of the spaceship’s photographic complexes – OCAMS, a set of three cameras – begins to film and photograph the entire operation to approach the asteroid.
At twenty-three minutes for the operation, the navigation system predicts the position and speed of the OSIRIS-REx at Checkpoint – the moment when the ship starts to do this autonomously, before adjusting its trajectory towards the third maneuver. The system then adjusts the thrusters to the location chosen for collection.
A minute later, the attitude control system’s thrusters are activated for 66 seconds to execute the Checkpoint orbital maneuver, which will place the spacecraft on a downward path towards the Bennu surface.
Eleven minutes from collection, the procedure for Matchpoint’s orbital maneuver is repeated – the moment when the spacecraft adopts the same rotation movement as the asteroid to hover in accordance with its surface. It takes place directly above the sample collection site.
Nine minutes before the operation, the navigation system calculates the position and speed of the OSIRIS-REx to predict where the sample will take place.
One minute from the time of collection, the spacecraft is just five meters from the surface of the asteroid. The navigation system again foresees the location of the collection site. After comparing with a risk map, you decide on your own – that is, without having to wait for orders from the control room, whether or not to continue to complete the mission.
The time has come T = 0. OSIRIS-REx comes into contact with the surface of the asteroid Bennu and, for 10 seconds, ejects pressurized nitrogen towards it and sucks up the rising dust. Thirty-one seconds after the first contact, the spacecraft moves away and the arm retracts to the resting position.