The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft of NASA is preparing for a farewell to Bennu. Bennu is an asteroid. The spacecraft has successfully completed its last flyover of Bennu. NASA said that it is now drifting away from Bennu. The spacecraft will soon begin its journey to Earth. It will return with a sample of Bennu’s surface. According to NASA, OSIRIS-REx completed the last flyover on April 7. The agency said that it will take a few more days to understand how the spacecraft changed the surface of Bennu after it retrieved Bennu’s sample. The flyover will help the team to document surface changes that involved touch and go sample collection. The spacecraft collected a sample from Bennu’s surface on October 20 last year.
NASA said that the team will survey the distribution of material excavated by OSIRIS-REx from Bennu’s surface. It will help them learn the asteroid’s surface and subsurface materials. They expect that data obtained during the exercise will demonstrate the mechanical properties of Bennu as well. OSIRIS-REx during its flyby clicked pictures of Bennu for nearly six hours. The data collected during the flyby is almost 4,000 megabytes. It covered Bennu’s almost a full rotation. The spacecraft flew within 3.5 kilometers distance to the rocky object’s surface. This was the closest approach since it collected the TAG sample from the surface.
NASA said that the spacecraft will downlink all of the data including images it captured during the flyby in the next few days. When the data is received, the mission team will analyze the data to understand how the spacecraft jumbled up the asteroid’s surface. Bennu belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. It was discovered in 1999. The object is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid. It is 185 million miles away from Earth. NASA said that OSIRIS-REx will remain in Bennu’s vicinity until May 10. It will fire thrusters on May 10 to begin its return journey. It will almost two years for OSIRIS-REx to reach Earth. The spacecraft will deliver Bennu’s samples probably in September 2023.