Bennu is an asteroid situated 236 million kilometers away from the Earth. In order to prepare for the upcoming expedition, OSIRIS-REX, over 2.150 shots were combined to get an actual image of the asteroid. The pictures were taken last year, from 7 March to 19 April. The main focus of this study was to determine both the possible dangers and the geological appearance of the surface.
The spacecraft has arrived at the asteroid in December 2018 and managed to take the most qualitative pictures of a planetary body that has ever been taken. The resolution of the image is 2 inches per pixel, all of them being taken from different angles and under various lighting conditions.
The NASA Researchers Are Trying to Get a Better View on Asteroid Bennu
At the end of August, the spacecraft is due to land on the asteroid and collect soil samples for further tests. The mission finishes in 2021, and the robot will come back on Earth. It is scheduled to arrive in September 2023. The most intriguing part of this mission is that the researchers could get a better perspective on the forming of the solar system.
The purpose of taking the pictures was to get a more unobstructed view of the surroundings. The most important part is the Nightingale, a crater of 140 meters wide, which is envisaged to be the landing point for the OSIRIS-REX.
Therefore, the researchers wanted to study whether this would be a suitable landing point or no. However, they discovered that the sample extraction would be harder than anticipated when they switched from using LIDAR for navigation to Natural Feature Tracking.
In spite of the pandemic crisis, the research is still going on Asteroid Bennu. NASA’s experts are hoping that this event will not result in postponing the experiment, even though it already caused the temporary closing of several facilities.