Destination, Asteroid: NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Starts Final Approach


Even as a European lander performed an epic touchdown on an asteroid this week, NASA started its final maneuvers on Monday (Oct. 1) to send its own spacecraft to a space rock.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) mission executed the first asteroid approach maneuver that day, putting the spacecraft on track for its arrival at asteroid Bennu in December, NASA said in a statement. However, it will take at least until next week to find out if the maneuver was successful, NASA said.
OSIRIS-REx performed a braking maneuver using its main engine thrusters. The procedure was designed to slow down the spacecraft to 313 mph (140 meters/second), roughly a third of the craft's previous speed of 1,100 mph (491 m/s).
The engine burn marks the beginning of a busy six weeks for the spacecraft as it completes a series of orbital tweaks that will ensure it reaches its destination.
The last of those maneuvers, scheduled for Nov. 12, will put OSIRIS-REx on track to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3, at a distance of 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the asteroid's surface. OSIRIS-REx will then do several flybys over Bennu's poles and the equator. The mission's ultimate goal is to pick up a sample of the asteroid to return to Earth in 2023.
Meanwhile, the Hayabusa2 sample-return spacecraft successfully dropped the MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout) lander, a joint project of the German and French space agencies, onto the surface of asteroid Ryugu on Oct. 2. There, the lander completed a 17-hour work session. Hayabusa2 will do multiple scoops of the surface itself before returning to Earth with the precious material in 2020.

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