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Why OSIRIS-REx is Courting Asteroid Bennu

7 Sep 2016, 17:11 UTC
Why OSIRIS-REx is Courting Asteroid Bennu
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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: The September 8, 2016 launch of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins a two-year journey to catch up to asteroid Bennu. Why was Bennu chosen as the asteroid to study?
Image Credit: University of Arizona
Bennu has many characteristics that make it one of five ideal candidates for study. Starting from a dating pool of over 500,000 possible asteroids, the OSIRIS-REx team narrowed their choice to a primitive and carbon-rich asteroid which is expected to have organic compounds and water-bearing minerals like clays. How did they choose Bennu as the asteroid for OSIRIS-REx’s first kiss? There were four requirements.
Not too Thin
The sampler head on OSIRIS-Rex will stir up the surface of the asteroid by using compressed Nitrogen gas. The goal is to have small particles on the surface of the asteroid, from dust to pebbles 1 centimeter in size. If the asteroid is spinning too fast, the small particles will have flown off the asteroid. Small asteroids spin too fast. The goal was to find an asteroid with a diameter > 200 meters. This would create a slow enough rotation period that the dust might still be present. Bennu has a diameter of 500 meters (slightly larger ...

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