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OSIRIS-REx: Arrival

4 Dec 2018, 15:35 UTC
OSIRIS-REx: Arrival
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

December 3 goes down as the day when OSIRIS-REx arrived at the asteroid called Bennu. The spacecraft, whose acronym untangles as Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, has been performing braking maneuvers to slow for the approach since October. This has been a long and delicate operation, with arrival marked by a maneuver on Monday to set up the first flyover of the object’s north pole.
Even so, spacecraft and asteroid are flying together while not yet in an orbital relationship. That won’t happen until December 31, when the mission’s navigation team will use the preliminary survey they’re building now to initiate the orbit. Bear in mind that we are dealing with an object less than 500 meters across (about 1,600 feet), so one of Bennu’s distinctions will be that it is to become the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. Now the learning period intensifies.
“During our approach toward Bennu, we have taken observations at much higher resolution than were available from Earth,” said Rich Burns, the project manager of OSIRIS-REx at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These observations have revealed an asteroid that is both consistent with our expectations from ground-based measurements and ...

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