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OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid
December 31, 2018 Stephen Clark


This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

After four weeks of navigating in the vicinity of asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fired its thrusters for eight seconds Monday to slip into orbit around the carbon-rich object, making Bennu the smallest planetary body ever orbited by a spacecraft.

OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu on Dec. 3, ending a journey from Earth that lasted more than two years and spanned 1.2 billion miles (2 billion kilometers). Since then, the robotic spacecraft has surveyed the 1,600-foot-wide (492-meter) asteroid through a series of flybys as close as 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) over Bennu’s north pole, south pole and equator to measure the asteroid’s gravitational tug on OSIRIS-REx, which helped scientists determine the object’s mass.

The mass estimate helped navigators refine the parameters of OSIRIS-REx’s maneuver to enter orbit around Bennu. The craft’s thrusters ignited for 8 seconds at 2:43:55 p.m. EST (1943:55 GMT) Monday to slightly adjust OSIRIS-REx’s velocity, nudging it just enough for Bennu’s tenuous gravity to capture the probe into orbit.

“The team continued our long string of successes by executing the orbit-insertion maneuver perfectly,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “With the navigation campaign coming to an end, we are looking forward to the scientific mapping and sample site selection phase of the mission.”

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KinetX SNAFD @KinetXSNAFD 7:02 AM - Dec 31, 2018
 Orbit insertion burn design has been finalized: @OSIRISREx will fire its thrusters to enter orbit about Bennu at 19:43:55 UTC (14:43:55 EST) tomorrow, December 31st! The engines will burn for 8 seconds.
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Launched in September 2016, NASA’s $1 billion Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer was built to travel to Bennu and collect samples for return to Earth.

When the solar system formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, chunks of rock and ice collided as they circled the sun like the balls on a billiard table, eventually building up planets. The leftovers became asteroids and comets, and scientists believe Bennu still harbors the basic carbon-bearing organic molecules that were present in the early solar solar system, the stuff that may have helped seed life.

Bennu is in an orbit around the sun that crosses Earth’s orbit, making it a potentially hazardous asteroid that could eventually pose an impact threat with our planet.

The spacecraft carries three cameras — one for long-range viewing, a color camera for mapping, and another imager to take pictures as OSIRIS-REx collects samples from the asteroid’s surface. The rest of OSIRIS-REx’s suite of science instruments includes a thermal emission spectrometer to detect heat coming from the asteroid, a visible infrared spectrometer to locate minerals and organic materials, a laser altimeter provided by the Canadian Space Agency to create topographic maps, and a student-built X-ray spectrometer to identify individual chemical elements present on the asteroid.

Besides revealing Bennu with high-resolution images, OSIRIS-REx has already made discoveries at the asteroid.

Data gathered by thermal emission and visible infrared spectrometer instruments — OTES and OVIRS — indicates clay minerals on the asteroid’s surface contain hydroxyl molecules with oxygen and hydrogen molecules bonded together. This finding suggests Bennu’s surface was once in contact with water, likely when the asteroid was part of a much larger parent body that was smashed to bits in a collision in the chaotic early solar system.


An artist’s concept of OSIRIS-REx at Bennu. Credit: Lockheed Martin

“The presence of hydrated minerals across the asteroid confirms that Bennu, a remnant from early in the formation of the solar system, is an excellent specimen for the OSIRIS-REx mission to study the composition of primitive volatiles and organics,” said Amy Simon, OVIRS deputy instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system.”

“Our initial data show that the team picked the right asteroid as the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission. We have not discovered any insurmountable issues at Bennu so far,” said Lauretta said. “The spacecraft is healthy and the science instruments are working better than required. It is time now for our adventure to begin.”

The first high-resolution images of Bennu taken by OSIRIS-REx revealed a miniature world containing a few relatively smooth regions without many large rocks, interspersed with boulder-filled regions that might be treacherous for the spacecraft’s sample collection touch-and-go maneuver.

One prominent feature of Bennu’s landscape is a large boulder protruding from the surface near the south pole. While ground-based radar images suggested the boulder to be at least 33 feet, or 10 meters, in height, OSIRIS-REx imagery indicates is closer to 164 feet, or 50 meters, tall with a width of approximately 180 feet, or 55 meters, according to NASA.

On approach to Bennu, ground controllers at Lockheed Martin in Denver — where OSIRIS-REx was built — unlatched the probe’s robotic arm from its launch restraint for the first time. Over several days, the ground team commanded the arm to bend its joints and jettison a launch cover over the sample collection mechanism, which will release compressed air during a touch-and-go maneuver to force gravel and surface material into an on-board chamber for the journey back to Earth.


This mosaic compares the size of asteroid Bennu, to scale, with other asteroids and comets visited by spacecraft. Credit: NASA/University of Arizona/ESA/JAXA

Due to the asteroid’s weak gravity, OSIRIS-REx was predicted to move around Bennu at a speed of just one-tenth of a mile per hour, or about 5 centimeters per second, once in orbit. The spacecraft’s first orbital phase will last until mid-February, when OSIRIS-REx will again make a series of flybys of Bennu.

During the mission’s first orbital phase, OSIRIS-REx is orbiting the asteroid at a range of 0.9 miles (1.4 km) to 1.24 miles (2.0 km) from the center of Bennu, setting another record for the closest distance any spacecraft has orbited to a planetary body.

Orbital speeds are determined by the gravitational pull of the parent planet or star. For comparison, objects in low Earth orbit have to travel at around 17,500 mph (7.8 kilometers per second) to avoid falling back into the atmosphere.

“It’s Bennu’s size and small mass that make the navigation challenges on this mission unprecedented, really,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics system manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a conference call with reporters in August.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was orbited by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft from 2014 through 2016, is between five and 10 times larger than Bennu, depending on how you measure. Asteroid Ryugu, where Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is currently exploring, is nearly twice the size of Bennu, and Hayabusa 2 will not enter orbit around it.

“Entering orbit around Bennu is an amazing accomplishment that our team has been planning for years,” Lauretta said.

OSIRIS-REx will orbit and explore Bennu for more than a year, allowing scientists and mission planners to examine the asteroid and determine a safe location for the craft’s touch-and-go descent in July 2020 to snag samples from the asteroid. The spacecraft will depart Bennu and head back to Earth, releasing its sample carrier for re-entry and landing in Utah in September 2023.

Scientists will take the samples to an ultra-clean facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for detailed analysis.

Source: OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid

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OSIRIS-REx finds rugged terrain on asteroid Bennu
January 31, 2019 Stephen Clark [Spaceflight Now]


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s navigation camera captured this image of asteroid Bennu on Jan. 17 from a distance of approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometers). The large boulder in partial shadow at the lower right of the frame is about 165 feet (50 meters) across. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

Some time next year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to the boulder-strewn surface of asteroid Bennu, reach out with a robotic arm, and fetch a sample for return to Earth, but an initial survey of the space rock millions of miles from Earth suggests the robotic mission may have few suitable targets for the touch-and-go maneuver.

OSIRIS-REx is still in the early weeks of its stay at asteroid Bennu, a roughly 1,640-foot-wide (500-meter) object that oscillates inside and outside of Earth’s orbit on each trip around the sun. Bennu’s proximity to Earth, which makes it an impact risk to the planet in the distant future, allowed ground-based radars to scan the asteroid in detail, revealing its size and shape before OSIRIS-REx’s launch in 2016.

The radar observations made by stations at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and Goldstone, California, did a “phenomenal job of predicting the shape and topography of the asteroid for us,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the $1 billion Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer mission at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

On its approach to the asteroid last year, OSIRIS-REx showed Bennu is shaped like diamond, or a spinning top, just as the radar observations suggested.

“It’s really good news that we got it so right, and that all our mission design plans are valid as we move forward,” Lauretta said Wednesday at a meeting of NASA’s Small Bodies Assessment Group, a community of scientists with research interests in asteroids, comets and other small objects in the solar system.

“We do have the expected, so-called ‘spinning top’ shape, which seems to be characteristic of a subset of the near-Earth asteroid population,” Lauretta said.

“One of the reasons we think it’s top-shaped is because it’s been accelerated by thermal pressures to sort of spin up,” said Olivier Barnouin, a co-investigator on the OSIRIS-REx mission from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “You can imagine if you take a top and start spinning up, if you have little rocks on it, things might go flying off.”

OSIRIS-REx’s cameras searched for evidence of moons or debris around Bennu late last year.

“We can confirm, to this point, that we have not identified any rocks that are flying around, and that there’s no risk to the spacecraft, which actually I think is kind of remarkable because this place is very dynamic,” Barnouin said in a Dec. 31 presentation of the mission’s preliminary findings at Bennu.

But Bennu did present some surprises to scientists, such as its jagged, craggy terrain covered with a collection of boulders, rock piles, craters and ridges.

“Some of the things that jump out at us right away from the asteroid’s surface are the large boulders,” Lauretta said Wednesday. “We are a looking at a pretty rough and rugged surface, more so than we expected.”

The first detailed images from OSIRIS-REx suggest Bennu exhibits the scars from collisions with other objects in the solar system, perhaps when Bennu orbited in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The basins include up to a dozen large impact craters that measure up to 500 feet (150 meters) in diameter, according to Lauretta.

“We’re thinking that the asteroid surface’s cratering age may be older than we expected, and may record its collisional history in the main asteroid belt,” he said.

Scientists believe the asteroid’s visible surface may be between 100 million and 1 billion years old, and Lauretta says Bennu is likely a “rubble pile” asteroid, made by the merging of several distinct objects. With the data already returned by OSIRIS-REx, scientists have calculated Bennu has a bulk density just 20 percent higher than that of water, and a bit less than that of Jupiter.

Officials marked OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Bennu on Dec. 3, when the spacecraft flew over the asteroid’s north pole. Subsequent passes over both poles and the equator allowed scientists to calculate the asteroid’s mass, a crucial parameter for planning the probe’s future trajectories.


OSIRIS-REx is currently in the mission’s “Orbital A” phase, following a maneuver Dec. 31 that directed the spacecraft into a slow-speed loop around Bennu that ranges between 1 mile and 1.3 miles (1.6 to 2.1 kilometers) from the asteroid. Due to Bennu’s weak gravity field, thousands of times weaker than that of Earth, OSIRIS-REx travels at a speed of just one-tenth of a mile per hour, or 5 centimeters per second, relative to the asteroid.

The orbital velocity of satellites circling the Earth can be as high as 17,500 mph (7.8 kilometers per second).

OSIRIS-REx has set records, becoming the first mission to orbit an object as small as Bennu, and as the closest any spacecraft has orbited to any planetary body.

The craft’s navigation team on Earth is plotting the location of landmarks and other prominent features on the asteroid’s surface. Beginning next month, OSIRIS-REx will fly on station-to-station trajectories around the asteroid, pulsing its thrusters to cover Bennu globally and periodically move to closer and farther distances.

“The orbit phase is not really a science campaign phase,” Lauretta said. “It’s primarily there for the navigation team to transition from using star fields to landmarks on the asteroid surface. That transition is going very well, and are achieving navigation accuracies that are required for us to depart orbit in about four weeks and begin the detailed survey campaign of the mission.”

When the solar system formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, chunks of rock and ice collided as they circled the sun like the balls on a billiard table, eventually building up planets. The leftovers became asteroids and comets, and scientists believe Bennu still harbors the basic carbon-bearing organic molecules that were present in the early solar solar system, the stuff that may have helped seed life.

The spacecraft carries three cameras — one for long-range viewing, a color camera for mapping, and another imager to take pictures as OSIRIS-REx collects samples from the asteroid’s surface. The rest of OSIRIS-REx’s suite of science instruments includes a thermal emission spectrometer to detect heat coming from the asteroid, a visible infrared spectrometer to locate minerals and organic materials, a laser altimeter provided by the Canadian Space Agency to create topographic maps, and a student-built X-ray spectrometer to identify individual chemical elements present on the asteroid.

Data gathered by thermal emission and visible infrared spectrometer instruments — OTES and OVIRS — indicates clay minerals on the asteroid’s surface contain hydroxyl molecules with oxygen and hydrogen molecules bonded together. This finding suggests Bennu’s surface was once in contact with water, likely when the asteroid was part of a much larger parent body that was smashed to bits in a collision in the chaotic early solar system.

One prominent feature of Bennu’s landscape is a large boulder protruding from the surface near the south pole. While ground-based radar images suggested the boulder to be at least 33 feet, or 10 meters, in height, OSIRIS-REx imagery indicates is closer to 164 feet, or 50 meters, tall with a width of approximately 180 feet, or 55 meters, according to NASA.

On approach to Bennu, ground controllers at Lockheed Martin in Denver — where OSIRIS-REx was built — unlatched the probe’s robotic arm from its launch restraint for the first time. Over several days, the ground team commanded the arm to bend its joints and jettison a launch cover over the sample collection mechanism, which will release compressed air during a touch-and-go maneuver to force gravel and surface material into an on-board chamber for the journey back to Earth.


One of the darkest features spotted so far on Bennu appears to be rich in magnetite and iron oxide, Lauretta said, based on early spectral measurements from OSIRIS-REx’s instruments. Scientists are intrigued by the darker regions of the asteroid because they are expected to contain more carbon, the scientific pay dirt for the sample return mission.

But officials will evaluate where OSIRIS-REx can safely reach the surface in the coming months, with the tough-and-go descent currently scheduled for July 4, 2020. That can be pushed back a few months, if necessary, before the spacecraft must depart Bennu in March 2021 to reach Earth in September 2023.

“The OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample site selection campaign starts next month, which is when we will start receiving science data at the resolution needed to make informed assessments about the safety of various regions on Bennu,” Lauretta said in a written response Thursday to questions from Spaceflight Now.

“We’re thinking about sampling the surface … and the craters are starting to look as possibly good candidates because they’re fairly smooth in structure, as far as we can tell at this point in the mission,” Barnouin said.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/01/31/osiris-rex-finds-rugged-terrain-on-asteroid-bennu/

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OSIRIS-REx Finds Plumes and Other Surprises on Asteroid Bennu
By Paul Scott Anderson, on March 19th, 2019 [AmericaSpace]


View of a particle plume erupting from the surface of Bennu, as seen by OSIRIS-REx on Jan. 19, 2019. This is the first time that such plumes have ever been observed on an asteroid. Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

Close-up observations of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu have revealed many surprises, NASA announced today during the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston. These include particle plumes and a much more rugged surface than had been anticipated.

The findings come from the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which entered orbit around Bennu on December. 31, 2018.

One of the most interesting discoveries has been the plumes – the first-ever observation of such plumes – also called “ejection events” – erupting from the surface of an asteroid. They were seen in images taken by the spacecraft when it was about one mile (1.61 kilometers) from the asteroid. Plumes are, of course, well-known on comets, and even icy moons like Enceladus and possibly Europa, but until now had not been seen on an asteroid. Scientists don’t know the cause yet for the plumes on such a small body – Bennu is only about 0.306 miles (492 meters) across.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started.”



Incredible view of the boulder-covered surface of Bennu in the southern hemisphere, taken by OSIRIS-REx on March 7, 2019. Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

“The first three months of OSIRIS-REx’s up-close investigation of Bennu have reminded us what discovery is all about — surprises, quick thinking, and flexibility,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We study asteroids like Bennu to learn about the origin of the solar system. OSIRIS-REx’s sample will help us answer some of the biggest questions about where we come from.”

The particle plumes were discovered on Jan. 6, 2019, and observed multiple times during the next couple months. Some of the particles even orbited Bennu as tiny “satellites” before settling back on the surface again.

Fortunately, none of the particles pose a danger to the spacecraft.

The other primary discovery was that Bennu’s surface is much more rugged than expected, literally covered with boulders. Scientists had thought the surface would be smoother, with fewer boulders, based on telescopic and radar observations from Earth. But as often happens in planetary missions, the truth turned out to be rather different.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return a sample of Bennu to Earth in 2023, with the sample collection done in the summer of 2020. The high density of boulders, however, will make the sample collection – Touch-and-Go (TAG) – a bit more tricky. It can still be done, but the sample site will need to be much smaller than first calculated. The anticipated sample site had an 82-foot (25-meter) radius, but will now have to be significantly reduced in order to avoid large boulders. The new sample collection process will now be called Bullseye Touch-and-Go.



Another view of the boulder-strewn surface of Bennu. Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

“Throughout OSIRIS-REx’s operations near Bennu, our spacecraft and operations team have demonstrated that we can achieve system performance that beats design requirements,” said Rich Burns, the project manager of OSIRIS-REx at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Bennu has issued us a challenge to deal with its rugged terrain, and we are confident that OSIRIS-REx is up to the task.”

There is also now evidence for thermal fracturing on Bennu, where the boulders forms cracks and break into smaller pieces.

“Based on what we’re seeing in these images, we believe rock breakdown due to thermal fracturing is happening on Bennu. What is really exciting is that this is the first time we’re observing direct evidence for this process on a planetary surface,” said Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Jamie Molaro.

Another key finding is that of water-bearing minerals on Bennu, similar to those on carbonaceous chondrites.

“Scientists are interested in the composition of Bennu because similar objects may have seeded the Earth with water and organic materials,” said SwRI’s Dr. Victoria Hamilton, a mission co-investigator and lead author of a paper outlining the discovery published March 19 in Nature Astronomy. “OSIRIS-REx data confirm previous ground-based observations pointing to aqueously altered, hydrated minerals on the surface of the asteroid.”



Mosaic image of Bennu. Photo Credit: NASA/GSFC/University of Arizona

“During planetary formation, scientists believe that water was one of many chemical components that accreted to form Earth; however, most scientists think additional water was delivered in part by comets and pieces of asteroids, including water-bearing carbonaceous meteorites,” Hamilton said. “Many of these meteorites also contain prebiotic organic chemicals and amino acids, which are precursors to the origin of life. The details of water delivery to Earth as well as the larger issue of the different inventories of water ice in the early solar system affect how we view solar system formation.”

OSIRIS-REx also found that Bennu’s rotation is slowly increasing in speed, due to uneven heating and cooling as it rotates in sunlight – the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect. As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about one second every 100 years.

The study of Bennu by OSIRIS-Rex is not only providing fascinating details about the asteroid itself, but also valuable clues as to how asteroids in general formed billions of years ago.

More information about OSIRIS-REx is available on the mission website.


Source: https://www.americaspace.com/2019/03/19/osiris-rex-finds-plumes-and-other-surprises-on-asteroid-bennu/

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Odp: [SFN] OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid
« Odpowiedź #3 dnia: Grudzień 14, 2019, 22:08 »
NASA selects OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling site
by Jeff Foust — December 13, 2019 [SN]


The Nightingale region of the asteroid Bennu, with an outline of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft superimposed for scale. OSIRIS-REx will attempt to collect samples from that area in August 2020 for return to Earth. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

WASHINGTON — NASA announced Dec. 12 that it has selected the site on a near Earth asteroid where a spacecraft will touch down and collect samples, a task that has become more difficult than mission planners originally expected.

NASA said that its Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft will gather samples from a crater on the asteroid Bennu dubbed Nightingale, located in the northern latitudes of the asteroid. That sampling attempt is currently scheduled for August 2020.

Nightingale was one of four sites on the asteroid that scientists had selected as finalists to be the location where the spacecraft would approach the surface and, using a sample collection tool mounted on the end of a robotic arm, touch the surface briefly to collect rock and soil samples before moving away.

“This one really came out on top because of the scientific value,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx, during a NASA broadcast that announced the site.

The site selection process was more challenging than the mission originally expected. When OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in 2018, the spacecraft’s images revealed an asteroid whose surface was littered with boulders that would be hazards for any sampling attempt, making it difficult to find a location that was both of scientific interest and safe enough for the spacecraft to approach.

Lauretta said the high latitude of the Nightingale site means that it avoids the night-and-day temperature swings of locations closer to the asteroid’s equator, preserving organic and water-bearing minerals there. “Being in those high latitudes, we think, gives us the best chance to preserve that kind of material,” he said.

The site, though, will also be a challenge for any sampling attempt. Lauretta said large boulders in the area, including one dubbed “Mount Doom,” pose obstructions to the spacecraft as it approaches. “We’re trying to get into a crater that’s on the order of a few parking lot spaces wide,” he said. “We’re aware we have hazards around us, so precision navigation to that sample material is our biggest challenge.”

That’s led to changes in the spacecraft’s flight control software. “We’ve had to make some changes to the capabilities of the spacecraft to allow us to navigate into a site like Nightingale,” said Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager. That includes creating a “hazard map” of the site based on images of it, which the spacecraft will use to determine if it is coming too close to a boulder and, if so, back away.

Should the Nightingale site prove to be too hazardous to collect a sample from, Lauretta said the mission selected another crater close to the equator, called Osprey, as a backup site. “We know we can get in there,” he said, although once into Osprey it may be more difficult to collect the sample itself.

OSIRIS-REx will depart the vicinity of Bennu in 2021 after collecting between 60 grams and two kilograms of samples. It will return to Earth in September 2023, with the sample return container landing at the Utah Test and Training Range.

The mission, launched in September 2016, is the third in NASA’s New Frontiers program of medium-class planetary science missions, after the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and the Juno mission to Jupiter. NASA selected the fourth New Frontiers mission, a spacecraft called Dragonfly that will fly from site to site on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, in June for launch in 2026.


Source: https://spacenews.com/nasa-selects-osiris-rex-asteroid-sampling-site/

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Odp: [SFN] OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid
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Odp: [SFN] OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid
« Odpowiedź #4 dnia: Grudzień 14, 2019, 22:08 »
NASA selects site for OSIRIS-REx to collect asteroid samples
December 12, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]


This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Using precise autonomous navigation algorithms, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will descend to the surface of an asteroid next year, aiming to retrieve rock specimens for return to Earth from a gravelly pit flanked by hazardous boulders, scientists said Thursday.

Scientists announced Thursday the selection of primary and backup sampling sites on asteroid Bennu, a 1,614-foot-side (492-meter) object shaped like a spinning top. NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer spacecraft has been in the vicinity of Bennu last December, circling the asteroid and mapping it with cameras, mineral-sniffing spectrometers and a Canadian-built laser to measure its roughness.

Launched in 2016, the $1 billion mission’s primary objective is to snag at least 2.1 ounces (60 grams) of pristine samples from Bennu’s surface, and return the material to Earth in September 2023 for analysis in sophisticated laboratories, where scientists will search for signs of organic matter and other chemicals critical to the dawn of life.

Scientists’ preferred sampling site, named Nightingale, is located in the northern hemisphere of Bennu, not far from the asteroid’s north pole. A backup site named Osprey is positioned closer to Bennu’s equator.

“This wasn’t an easy decision,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator on the OSIRIS-REx mission from the University of Arizona.

Bennu turned out to be more rugged than mission planners expected, and none of the candidate sites on the asteroid are free of boulders, slopes and other hazards to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which was built by Lockheed Martin.

“When we first got there, the most obvious feature that we saw were these abundant very large boulders, and overall a rough and rugged surface very different than what we designed the spacecraft to sample,” Lauretta said. “We were looking at sampling areas that were 25 meters (82 feet) in radius across, and quite honestly I thought it was going to be obvious from the first images where the sample regions were, and that it was going to be a straightforward site selection. And it was nothing of the sort.”

Data collected by OSIRIS-REx’s survey to date provided scientists with topographic 3D maps of the asteroid, and information about the minerals present in different regions of Bennu.

Using machine learning algorithms and crowdsourced image analysis, scientists looked for areas that looked safe for the spacecraft to perform a touch-and-go maneuver to retrieve samples. They came up with a list of 50 potential sampling sites, then narrowed the candidates to 16, eight and then a “final four” for detailed follow-up reconnaissance. Each of the final four sites were named for birds.

In the end, the OSIRIS-REx team selected locations they named Nightingale and Osprey.



Data visualization of asteroid Bennu and the OSIRIS-REx sample site candidates. Scientists have selected the Nightingale and Osprey locations as the primary and backup sampling sites, respectively. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/CSA/York University/MDA

Lauretta said the Nightingale site looks to have an abundance of fine-grained material within the capability of the OSIRIS-REx sampling mechanism. It appears dark, suggesting it might harbor relatively high concentrations of carbon, the building block of organic molecules.

“We recognize that this does have some hazards around it, and so we are doing a lot of work to make sure that we’re targeting the safe regions,” he said Thursday in a presentation at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in San Francisco. “But this one really came out on top because of the scientific value. The high latitudes means that it stays relatively cool, and the primary objective of OSIRIS-REx is to bring back organic material and water-bearing material from the early solar system. Being in those high latitudes gives us the best chance to preserve that kind of material.”

The Nightingale site is located inside a 460-foot (140-meter) crater, but the area deemed safe for the spacecraft to touch is 52 feet (16 meters) across. That is about one-tenth the size of the safe sampling area scientists expected before OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu.

The spacecraft’s solar panels extend more than 20 feet, or 6.2 meters, tip-to-tip.

“It’s kind of a tight fit,” Lauretta said.

The backup site at Osprey presents fewer navigation challenges, according to Lauretta.

When mission managers give the go-ahead for OSIRIS-REx to perform its sampling run, the spacecraft will break out of its orbit around Bennu and start a carefully-choreographed descent to the surface. Two hold points are planned just above Bennu before the spacecraft proceeds in to retrieve the samples.

A device mounted on the end of the spacecraft’s robotic arm will contact the asteroid surface and fire compressed nitrogen gas. The gas cartridge will disrupt the rock at the sampling site, and the spacecraft will capture some of the material.

“The spacecraft will only make contact with the surface for a few seconds, kind of like it’s bouncing on a pogo stick,” said Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx flight dynamics system manager at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center. “It’ll make contact with the surface for a few seconds, fire its thrusters and back away. When the contact is detected, it will fire a nitrogen gas bottle, and that will stir up some of this fine-grained regolith and churn it and capture it in the sample collection ring.”



Artist’s illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, with its sampling arm extended. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Engineers developed upgraded navigation capabilities to help guide OSIRIS-REx the final phase of the descent to the rugged asteroid. The spacecraft will use a capability called natural feature tracking to take a series of images with a navigation camera to autonomously identify rocks, craters and other markings on the asteroid’s surface, yielding data on position and relative velocity.

“You’ve also got to remember we’re 250 million kilometers (155 million miles) away from Earth,” Lauretta said. “The one-way light time is tens of minutes. Everything happens autonomously on the vehicle, and the spacecraft has to make a lot of intelligent decisions about whether it’s safe to continue down to sample collection.”

A 23-foot-high (7-meter) boulder at the the edge of the Nightingale site has been colloquially nicknamed “Mount Doom.” OSIRIS-REx will need to steer well clear of that hazard.

Managers and penciled in Aug. 25, 2020, as the scheduled date for the first sampling run, following two close-up reconnaissance passes over the Nightingale site and two dress rehearsals.

“What we’re trying to do is essentially navigate the spacecraft down to a location thats the width of a couple of parking spaces and is just a few steps away from a two-to-three story tall building,” Moreau said. “Pretty exciting.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/12/12/nasa-selects-site-for-osiris-rex-to-collect-asteroid-samples/

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Odp: [SFN] OSIRIS-REx completes New Year’s Eve orbit insertion burn at asteroid
« Odpowiedź #5 dnia: Październik 21, 2020, 00:01 »
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Odp: [SN] OSIRIS-REx safely stores asteroid sample
« Odpowiedź #6 dnia: Listopad 15, 2020, 10:05 »
OSIRIS-REx safely stores asteroid sample
by Jeff Foust — October 30, 2020 [SN]


A canister containing material collected from the surface of the asteroid Bennu is placed inside a sample return capsule on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Univ. of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has secured material it collected from the asteroid Bennu into a sample return capsule, a process the mission accelerated after images showed material leaking into space.

At an Oct. 29 briefing, project officials said they had stowed a sample collection device called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) into a capsule on the spacecraft. A robotic arm moved the TAGSAM head into position within the capsule, which then sealed shut.

That TAGSAM head touched down on the surface of the asteroid Bennu Oct. 20 for several seconds, and appeared to capture a large volume of material. However, officials said Oct. 23 that the TAGSAM had gathered so much material a Mylar flap designed to seal the material into place had been wedged open by several large rocks, causing some material to leak out, as seen in images from the spacecraft.

NASA then decided to accelerate the process of stowing the TAGSAM head into the capsule that will return the material to Earth, skipping a maneuver to weigh the sample. Controllers spent about 36 hours on Oct. 26 and 27 to use the robotic arm to move the TAGSAM head into position in the sample return capsule and verify it was locked in place, and then sealed the capsule.

“Stow is an intense period of operations. Our flight team worked around the clock to accomplish these in a much shorter period of time than we had envisioned,” said Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin. A further complication is the spacecraft’s distance from Earth, with a round-trip light travel time of more than a half-hour.

That stow process was originally scheduled for early November, so moving it up meant securing time on the Deep Space Network (DSN) from other users. “There was a lot of last-minute renegotiations with several missions,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for the mission at the University of Arizona, said he was confident that, despite the leaking material, there was still a large amount of material in the TAGSAM head when it was sealed inside the capsule. “We have continued to analyze the images and do estimate that tens of grams of samples probably escaped throughout the entire sequence of operations,” he said.

The accelerated stow process meant that the project skipped a maneuver to slowly spin the spacecraft, measuring the change in its moment of inertia from before the sampling attempt and, from that, estimating the mass of material collected from the asteroid. That maneuver could have caused even more material to escape.

However, Lauretta said he was confident that the spacecraft has retained far more material than its goal of 60 grams. He said images of the inside of the head showed at least 400 grams of material. He added those images only covered 17% of the volume of the TAGSAM head. “Everywhere we can see into the TAGSAM we can see abundant sample in there,” he said. “We’re probably in excess of a kilogram of material.”

There may be other ways to estimate the mass of material, such as how the robotic arm moved during the stowage process. “We would definitely like to have an estimated sample mass before 2023,” when the spacecraft returns to Earth, Freund said.

Scientists have been analyzing the images taken during and after the sampling effort to better understand the surface. The material leaking out of the TAGSAM, he said, were “flaky” in appearance. “It looks like you dumped a box of cornflakes out in space, and they’re fluttering around, kind of in random motion,” he said.

The surface of Bennu itself is quite weak. The TAGSAM head plunged as deep as half a meter into the surface during its brief encounter. “There’s basically almost no forces between the grains that keep them bound together. They are not sticking to each other in any way,” Lauretta said. If an astronaut stepped onto the surface, “she would sink to her knees or deeper, depending on how loose the soil was, until you hit a larger boulder or some kind of bedrock.”

The deep plunge, though, likely allowed OSIRIS-REx to collect material from well below the surface. Such material, he said, would be protected from sunlight and be richer in volatiles.

With the material collected form Bennu secured inside the sample return capsule, the mission is now focused on returning those samples to Earth. The window for the spacecraft’s maneuver to depart the vicinity of Bennu opens in early March 2021. Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the window for that maneuver extends through May. The departure maneuver would bring the spacecraft back to Earth in September 2023.


Source: https://spacenews.com/osiris-rex-safely-stores-asteroid-sample/

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Odp: [SFN] Scientists thrilled with first look at asteroid sampler in action
« Odpowiedź #7 dnia: Listopad 15, 2020, 10:13 »
Scientists thrilled with first look at asteroid sampler in action
October 21, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJBv4reH9IU" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJBv4reH9IU</a>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJBv4reH9IU&feature=emb_title

The first images beamed back to Earth by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after it briefly landed an asteroid buoyed expectations Wednesday that the probe collected enough samples to meet the mission’s minimum requirement for return to Earth.

But it will take another week for ground teams to get a reasonably precise estimate of how much material OSIRIS-REx captured during its touch and go landing Tuesday on asteroid Bennu, a loosely-assembled clump of carbon-rich rock and dust spanning a third of a mile (about 500 meters) wide.

The diamond-shaped mini-world was the destination for NASA’s $1 billion Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, which aims to become the first U.S. spacecraft to complete a round-trip journey to an asteroid.

Dante Lauretta, the mission’s chief scientist from the University of Arizona, said Wednesday that the spacecraft’s 11-foot-long (3.4-meter) sampling arm appeared to come down on a “relatively large rock” that measured a little more than 8 inches, or 20 centimeters.

“Literally, we crushed it,” Lauretta said. “When the spacecraft made contact, that rock appears to fragment and shatter, which is great news because that means that ingestible material … is probably being created just by the motion of the spacecraft pushing into the surface.”

The spacecraft’s Touch And Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or TAGSAM, on the end of the robot arm is about the size of a dinner plate. About one second after touching the asteroid surface, the sampling system discharged a bottle of high-pressure nitrogen gas to help blow rock fragments and dust into a collection chamber, acting like a reverse vacuum cleaner.

A sped-up video sequence released Wednesday showed the sampling mechanism touching down on the asteroid and generating a cloud of debris.

Ground teams at OSIRIS-REx mission control near Denver received confirmation that the spacecraft contacted the asteroid at 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208 GMT) Wednesday, according to NASA.

In real time, the touch and go landing actually happened more than 18 minutes earlier. It took that long for radio signals from OSIRIS-REx to make the one-way trip at the speed of light from Bennu — located some 207 million miles (333 million kilometers) from Earth — back to mission control.

NASA said Wednesday that a preliminary analysis of data from OSIRIS-REx indicated the spacecraft contacted the asteroid at a relative velocity of just 0.2 mph, or 10 centimeters per second, a fraction of a walking pace. The spacecraft was on the asteroid for around six seconds before the probe fired thrusters to back away from Bennu.



Captured on Oct. 20 during the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event, this series of two images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view at the moment before and after the NASA spacecraft touched down on asteroid Bennu’s surface. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The spacecraft’s autonomous navigation software guided OSIRIS-REx to an on-target touchdown, steering clear of nearby boulders and rugged terrain. The spacecraft found Bennu had a more rocky surface than expected, requiring engineers to introduce more precise navigation algorithms to use natural landmarks on the asteroid to help itself maneuver toward the correct landing site.

The target for Tuesday’s touch and go landing — nicknamed “Nightingale” — was just the size of a tennis court. In the end, OSIRIS-REx contacted the asteroid within a meter, or 3.3 feet, of its target, according to Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx’s project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

OSIRIS-REx was relaying low-rate telemetry back to ground controllers as it descended toward Bennu on Tuesday. A few hours later, the spacecraft reestablished a higher-rate data link with Earth and started beaming back images taken during the touch and go, or TAG, maneuver.

Lauretta said much of OSIRIS-REx’s science team was up late Tuesday night to begin analyzing the pictures.

“We were watching the images come down one by one,” Lauretta said.

Finally, well after midnight in Denver, the science team got the picture they were looking for. The craft’s robotic arm appeared to press into the asteroid’s porous surface, and the burst of nitrogen gas launched a cloud of tiny particles off Bennu and into the sampling camera’s field-of-view.

“You can see that particle are flying all over the place,” Lauretta said. “We really did kind of make a mess on the surface of this asteroid, but it’s a good mess. It’s the kind of mess we were hoping for. Lots of material has been mobilized giving us additional confidence that we actually pushed material up into the sampler head.”

Lauretta was in contact with imaging scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson via a virtual chat app as each new photo arrived on Earth overnight.

“The science team was analyzing them in real-time through the chat feature,” Lauretta said. “As you can imagine, the chat was filled with emojis and wows and all kinds of celebratory remarks.

“The best piece of information we got was that that TAGSAM head looked like it pushed down into the asteroid surface,” he said.

The nitrogen gas bottle was expected to drive rock fragments of up to 2 centimeters — about the size of a U.S. nickel — into OSIRIS-REx’s sample collection chamber. Stainless steel Velcro pads on the outside of the sampling device were also supposed to collect fine-grained dust.



Artist’s illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touching down on asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA/Goddard/CI Lab
Lauretta said the science team was encouraged by the indications that OSIRIS-REx’s sampling mechanism crushed the rocks when it contacted the asteroid. He said the sampling system performed best in pre-launch testing when it pressed into the ground.


“Everything that we can see from these initial images indicate sampling success,” Lauretta said. “We still have some work to do.”

On Thursday, the spacecraft will move its robot arm into position to allow a camera to take closer images of the sample collection mechanism. Officials hope to see asteroid material inside the sampling device, but Lauretta said there’s no guarantee of getting a clear shot of the sample.

OSIRIS-REx will fire its thrusters Friday to halt its flight away from Bennu after the touch and go landing earlier this week, Burns said.

The next activity will be a sample mass measurement Saturday, when OSIRIS-REx will extend its sampling arm and enter a spin to give ground teams an estimate of how much asteroid material it scooped up from Bennu. The spacecraft performed a similar spin maneuver before the touch and go landing.

“That way we can compare the moment of inertia, which will help us determine how much mass is actually in the sampler head,” said Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin, which built the spacecraft for NASA.

The minimum amount of asteroid material OSIRIS-REx needs to return to meet mission success criteria is 60 grams, or about 2.1 ounces.

“The best outcome would be that we would collect a massive sample,” said Heather Enos, OSIRIS-REx’s deputy principal investigator at the University of Arizona, before the sample collection attempt. “We say we have a requirement for 60 grams, or 2 ounces, but we have the capability of collecting up to 2 kilograms. I would love for that capsule to be completely full.”

Lauretta said Wednesday that the sample mass measurement has some uncertainty, and a measurement of 80 grams would give managers some confidence that OSIRIS-REx gathered the required amount of material from Bennu.

“If we see SMM (the sample mass measurement) coming in at 80 grams or higher, we have a 90% confidence of having collected 60 grams of regolith,” Lauretta said. “So that’s a key number that I’m looking for.”

NASA has set Oct. 30 for a key decision point on whether to declare success, or plan for another sampling run at a different site on Bennu.

If NASA is satisfied OSIRIS-REx has the required sample mass, ground controllers will send commands for the TAGSAM arm to place the collection canister inside OSIRIS-REx’s landing capsule. Explosive bolts will sever the TAGSAM head from the craft’s robotic arm, and the capsule’s lid will close over the device for the trip home.

If not, the spacecraft could try another touch and go landing as soon as January to snatch up more asteroid material.

The robot explorer is scheduled to depart the vicinity of Bennu in March, when it can set off on an interplanetary trajectory back to Earth. OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to release its return capsule to parachute to a landing in the Utah desert on Sept. 24, 2023.

After OSIRIS-REx’s return carrier lands back on Earth, a recovery team will transport the craft to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where scientists will open the canister inside a pristine sample curation laboratory and begin studying its contents.

Researchers at Johnson’s astromaterials lab also analyze rocks returned from the moon by the Apollo astronauts.



Data from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was used to create this shape model of asteroid Bennu at 75-centimeter resolution. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The team that developed and built the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft took extra measures to ensure the asteroid sample will not be contaminated by organic materials from Earth.

Researchers will use optical and electron microscopes, super-computing labs, and synchrotron accelerators — instruments the size of a large room or a building — in their asteroid sample analysis.

Scientific equipment qualified to fly in space have to operate in extreme temperatures, an airless vacuum, and intense radiation, all while functioning on very little power.

Scientists will attempt to determine the chirality, or handedness, of amino acids and other compounds grabbed from Bennu. Molecules associated with life, such as DNA, have a distinctive orientation. In the case of DNA in organisms on Earth, the double helix always twists in a right-handed direction, and the atoms that make up amino acids in biology are almost always left-handed.

The preference for a left or right orientation among the atoms making up biological molecules makes it easier for chemicals to latch together and build more complex structures.

“Bennu is one of over a million known asteroids in our solar system, and these asteroids are relics of that earliest material that formed the planets in the solar system, and they hold the key information to unlocking how the solar system formed, and how it evolved over time,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

Named for a bird-like ancient Egyptian deity linked with the sun, creation and rebirth, Bennu follows a path around the sun that intersects Earth’s orbit, and the asteroid makes a relatively close approach to Earth once every six years.

That makes Bennu a potentially hazardous asteroid, and it poses a low threat of eventually hitting Earth. There is a 1-in-2,700 chance of Bennu impacting Earth in the late 2100s.

Bennu was discovered in 1999 by a survey with a ground-based telescope searching for near-Earth asteroids. OSIRIS-REx is the first mission to visit Bennu.

Since arriving at Bennu nearly two years ago, OSIRIS-REx has determined the asteroid is shedding material into space. The mission has also found that Bennu — known as a B-type asteroid — is covered in carbon-rich, water-bearing minerals. The organic material may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology, scientists announced Oct. 8.

Data from OSIRIS-REx’s surveys of Bennu show many of the asteroid’s darkest boulders are weaker and more porous than expected. Scientists say most of the boulders on the asteroid are too weak to survive entry into Earth’s atmosphere, so the specimens targeted by OSIRIS-REx could offer a “missing link” because similar rocks are not well represented in meteorite collections.

“Returned samples from Bennu could help us answer some key astrobiology questions, such as how water and organic materials were delivered to Earth, and the role those key ingredients played in the early initiation of life on Earth,” Glaze said.

Another objective of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to characterize the forces pushing on Bennu and gradually changing its orbit. One of the forces is called the Yarkovsky effect, in which thermal emissions from an asteroid can alter its trajectory through the solar system. Solar radiation pressure is another influence on asteroid orbits.

That data will help scientists better predict when asteroids might threaten Earth.

While it is the first U.S. asteroid sample return probe, OSIRIS-REx is not the only spacecraft currently traveling the solar system on a mission to retrieve materials from an asteroid and bring them back to Earth.

Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is on course to bring home samples from asteroid Ryugu on Dec. 6, capping a six-year expedition in space. The mission captured bits of rock from two locations on the half-mile-wide (900-meter) asteroid last year.

Like Bennu, Ryugu is an asteroid rich in carbon and organics.

NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency have agreed to share Hayabusa 2 and OSIRIS-REx samples with scientists in each country. JAXA will get about 0.5% of OSIRIS-REx’s samples from Bennu, according to Lauretta.

The Canadian Space Agency will receive 4% of the material from Bennu in exchange for Canada’s contribution of a laser altimeter for OSIRIS-REx, Lauretta said.

Assuming the sample mass measurement Saturday confirms scientists’ suspicions that OSIRIS-REx gathered more than 60 grams of samples from Bennu, the spacecraft’s science mission at Bennu is over, Lauretta said.

“We are then solely focused on the return cruise,” he said. “And quite honestly, the real scientific payoff which this mission is designed to do is that sample return and that sample science, and we’ll be putting our focus and our resources into that.

“We have met, and in most cases, vastly exceeded all the science requirements associated with the remote sensing campaign at Bennu,” Lauretta said Wednesday. “So all we have left to do to deliver on our promise to the agency is get that sample safely back to the Earth, get it into our laboratories, and answer the fundamental questions about the formation of our solar system and why Earth is a habitable world.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/10/21/scientists-thrilled-with-first-look-at-asteroid-sampler-in-action/

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Odp: [SFN] Scientists thrilled with first look at asteroid sampler in action
« Odpowiedź #7 dnia: Listopad 15, 2020, 10:13 »