What happens when you hit an asteroid

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA has just released this short video of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s brief but all important contact with the asteroid Bennu.

The sampling arm TAGSAM (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) is visible in the lower part of the frame. In the middle of the image sequence, the head positions itself to contact the asteroid’s surface head-on. Shortly after, it penetrates Bennu’s regolith.

Upon initial contact, the head appears to crush some of the porous rocks underneath it. One second later, the spacecraft fires a nitrogen gas bottle, which mobilises a substantial amount of the sample site’s material.

Preliminary data show the spacecraft spent about five of the six seconds of contact collecting surface material, with most occurring in the first three seconds. The mission team will now assess the amount of material collected.

The spacecraft was travelling at 10 cm/sec when it contacted sample site Nightingale, then backed away at 40 cm/sec. This sequence was created using 82 SamCam images captured over about five minutes.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Source: cosmos