The OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Mission – The Value of Planning Ahead and Adaptability
Day: Tuesday 26 October
Time: 18:00-19:00 GST
Location: Sheikh Rashid Hall E, Dubai World Trade Centre
The scientific and programmatic goals of the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) are captured in the name: the mission results provide new and fundamental information about the origins of the Earth, the relationship between the terrestrial planets and the small-body populations, and protecting the Earth from future impacts. On October 20, 2020, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected at least 60 grams of material from the asteroid Bennu. The remote-sensing data collected during asteroid operations and the pristine returned sample will provide companion data sets that helps illuminate the pathway of water and organics from the early solar system to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx is a partnership between NASA Goddard, the University of Arizona, and Lockheed Martin. Starting with an audacious concept, the successful Touch-and-Go (TAG) event was preceded by years of concept refinement, ground testing, and mission planning.
Extensive ground- and space-based observations of the asteroid provided invaluable physical characteristics of asteroid Bennu that supported mission development, such as size, rotation rate, and spin pole orientation. While many of these were correct, detailed observations from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft provided several surprises, including the frequent ejection of particles from Bennu’s surface, and perhaps most importantly, the absence of sample sites as large as originally expected. These discoveries were both scientifically profound and operationally challenging, and required adjustments to the original operational plans. The adjustments included using known back-up capabilities, such as switching to an optical-based guidance vs. the originally-planned lidar-based guidance, as well as re-thinking the sample-site selection process.
Fortunately, each challenge became an opportunity. Join us to hear the full story of our development, discovery, and ultimately successful collection of more sample than any other non-lunar sample return mission.
Mission Implementation Senior System Engineer, OSIRIS-REx Science Planning Team, University of Arizona