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NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission flies by asteroid Bennu one final time

April 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 43.8%. 2 min read.

A NASA spacecraft is conducting a final flyby of the asteroid Bennu on Wednesday, capturing images of the asteroid's surface from just 2.3 miles away. OSIRIS-REx's images should reveal the aftermath of its sample collection event in October.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is conducting a final flyby of the asteroid Bennu on Wednesday.

The spacecraft made history when it briefly touched down on the asteroid on October 20, 2020, and collecting a hefty 2-ounce sample from the surface.

During Wednesday's flyby, the spacecraft will get one final close-up of Bennu, capturing images of the asteroid's surface from just 2. 3 miles away.

The asteroid's surface was disturbed when OSIRIS-REx's sampling head sank 1. 6 feet down into the surface of the asteroid.

The thrusters on the spacecraft also launched material in the air as the spacecraft backed away from the asteroid after collecting the sample.

Images captured by the spacecraft Wednesday will show scientists just how much the sample collection event altered the surface of the asteroid.

During the flyby, OSIRIS-REx's instruments will collect data, allowing the mission team a chance to assess them after the tools were coated in dust during the collection event.

The spacecraft may go on an extended mission after dropping off Bennu's sample at Earth in September 2023, so this evaluation can help teams make that determination.

Days after the flyby, all of the images and data will be sent back to the mission teams so they can analyze the changes to Bennu and evaluate the spacecraft's instruments.

"Leaving Bennu's vicinity in May puts us in the 'sweet spot,' when the departure maneuver will consume the least amount of the spacecraft's onboard fuel," said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement.

"We're really excited the mission is planning one more observation flyby of asteroid Bennu to provide new information about how the asteroid responded to (the Touch-and-Go Sample Collection event) and to render a proper farewell. "

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