NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx will land on an asteroid to bring home rocks and dust – if it can avoid Mt. Doom

      WHY IN NEWS:

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained



For PRELIMS go through the aim , the mission , equipments of the spacecraft and quick facts about asteroid bennu .

For MAINS well this is an old mission now but still stands significant ! You have to take this into consideration and write a detailed answer on this mission . Let us dive in !


This is the first U.S. mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for study.


  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx stands for- Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, SecurityRegolith Explorer asteroid sample return mission.

Analyzing the sample will help scientists understand the early solar system, as well as the hazards and resources of near-Earth space.

  • Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets and enabled life.
  • Future space exploration and economic development may rely on asteroids for these materials.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC


  • OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny?

Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.

  • The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system.
  • Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans.

Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century.

  • OSIRIS-REx will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission.
  • Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals.
  • In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and crewed spacecraft.


OSIRIS-REx’s key science objectives include:

  • Return and analyze a sample of Bennu’s surface
  • Map the asteroid
  • Document the sample site

Measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect)

  • Compare observations at the asteroid to ground-based observations


  • OSIRIS-REx contains five instruments to explore Bennu.
  • Each of which provides important information for the mission.

This suite of instruments is used for remote sensing or scanning the surface of the asteroid.

1.OSIRIS-REX CAMERA SUITE (OCAMS) – a system consisting of three cameras to observe Bennu and provide global image mapping, as well as sample site image mapping.

The suite consists of these cameras:

  • MAPCAM – a camera that will map the surface of the asteroid in four colors
  • POLYCAM – an 8-inch (20 centimeter) telescope that will be the first to image the asteroid from 1.24 million miles (2 million kilometers) away and also provide high-resolution microscope-like images of the surface
  • SAMCAM – a camera that will image (as fast as 1.6 seconds) the sample acquisition event and examine the sample collector to verify successful acquisition.

2.OSIRIS-REX LASER ALTIMETER (OLA)– a scanning LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to measure the distance between the spacecraft and Bennu’s surface and map the shape of the asteroid.

3.OSIRIS-REX THERMAL EMISSION SPECTROMETER (OTES) – this will provide mineral and temperature information by observing the thermal infrared spectrum.

4.OSIRIS-REX VISIBLE AND INFRARED SPECTROMETER (OVIRS) – it will measure visible and infrared light from Bennu to identify mineral and organic material.

5.REGOLITH X-RAY IMAGING SPECTROMETER (REXIS) – a student experiment to determine what elements are present on Bennu’s surface and how abundant they are.


  • While OSIRIS-REx is the first NASA mission to attempt to collect a sample from an asteroid.
  • OSIRIS-REx is the United States’ first asteroid sample return mission, aiming to collect and carry a pristine, unaltered sample from an asteroid back to Earth for scientific study.

The spacecraft will attempt to touch the surface of the asteroid Bennu, which is hurtling through space at 63,000 miles per hour.

  • The spacecraft will deploy an 11-foot-long robotic arm called TAGSAMTouch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism.
  • It will spend about 10 seconds collecting at least two ounces of loose rubble from the asteroid.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC

This image shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s sampling arm – called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM)



  • Asteroids are relics of the earliest materials that formed our solar system.

Studying such a sample might allow scientists to answer fundamental questions about the origins of the solar system.

  • Bennu is a near-Earth asteroid with possible risk of impacting the Earth in the late 2100s, so the mission also is exploring ways in which such a collision might be avoided.
  • Mapping the chemical properties of Bennu to learn can tell about the potential for mining asteroids to produce rocket fuel — a notion since 2004.


  • PROXIMITY TO EARTH : At the time of the mission’s asteroid selection in 2008, there were over 7,000 known NEOs, but only 192 had orbits that met these criteria.NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC
  • SIZE : Asteroids with small diameters rotate more rapidly than those with large diameters.

The ideal asteroid has a diameter larger than 200 m so that a spacecraft can safely come into contact with it and collect a sufficient regolith sample.

  • COMPOSITION : Of the 26 asteroids left on the list, only 12 had a known composition, and only 5 were primitive and carbon-rich.


  • Bennu is a B-type asteroid with a ~500 meter diameter.
  • It completes an orbit around the Sun every 436.604 days (1.2 years) and every 6 years comes very close to Earth, within 0.002 AU.

These close encounters give Bennu a high probability of impacting Earth in the late 22nd century.

  • Bennu’s size, primitive composition, and potentially hazardous orbit make it one of the most fascinating and accessible NEOs and the ideal OSIRIS-REx target asteroid.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC

This set of stereoscopic images provides a 3D view of the 170-foot (52-meter) boulder that juts from asteroid Bennu’s southern hemisphere and the rocky slopes that surround it.


      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained yet !
  • The mission is less than two weeks away from fulfilling its biggest goal – collecting a piece of a pristine, hydrated, carbon-rich asteroid.
  • OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in 2021 and deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.
     SOURCES:DownToEarth| NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Touches Asteroid | UPSC



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