1. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Snaps Pictures of Earth and the Moon

    September 28, 2017 -

    The first image taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after completion of its Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22, 2017. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

    The first image taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after completion of its Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22, 2017, cropped to show in greater detail the spacecraft’s view of Earth from 69,000 miles (110,000 kilometers). The image has been rotated so that Earth’s north pole is located at the top, and the Baja Peninsula is visible above and to the right of center. Cloud cover and the Pacific Ocean dominate most of the image, but Hurricane Maria and the remnants of Hurricane Jose can be seen in the far upper-right portion of the image, off the east coast of the United States. This image was captured by NavCam 1, a black-and-white imager that is one of three cameras comprising TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System), which is part of OSIRIS-REx’s guidance, navigation, and control system. NavCam images will track starfields and landmarks on Bennu to determine the spacecraft position during mission operations. TAGCAMS was designed, built and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

     

    This black-and-white image of the Earth-Moon system was captured on Sept. 25, 2017 by NavCam 1. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

    This black-and-white image of the Earth-Moon system was captured on Sept. 25, 2017 by NavCam 1, one of three cameras that comprise TAGCAMS (the Touch-and-Go Camera System) on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. At the time this image was taken, the spacecraft was retreating from Earth after performing an Earth Gravity Assist maneuver on Sept. 22. Earth and the Moon are shown 249,000 miles (401,200 kilometers) apart, and the spacecraft is 804,000 miles (1,297,000 kilometers) from Earth and 735,000 miles (1,185,000 kilometers) from the Moon.  TAGCAMS was designed, built and tested by Malin Space Science Systems; Lockheed Martin integrated TAGCAMS to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and operates TAGCAMS. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

  2. OSIRIS-REx Views the Earth During Flyby

    September 26, 2017 -

    A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    A color composite image of Earth taken on Sept. 22 by the MapCam camera on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. This image was taken just hours after the spacecraft completed its Earth Gravity Assist at a range of approximately 106,000 miles (170,000 kilometers). MapCam is part of the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) operated by the University of Arizona. Visible in this image are the Pacific Ocean and several familiar landmasses, including Australia in the lower left, and Baja California and the southwestern United States in the upper right. The dark vertical streaks at the top of the image are caused by short exposure times (less than three milliseconds). Short exposure times are required for imaging an object as bright as Earth, but are not anticipated for an object as dark as the asteroid Bennu, which the camera was designed to image.

     

    OVIRS captured this visible and infrared spectral curve, which shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth, after the spacecraft’s Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22, 2017. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    OVIRS, the OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer, captured this visible and infrared spectral curve, which shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the Earth, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017. The features in the curve are caused by solar absorption due to different substances (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and oxygen). The smooth red curve is the spectrum of the sun and shows what would be reflected if there these substances were not present in the atmosphere. OVIRS was built and is operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.  The inset shows an image of Earth captured by OCAMS on the same date showing the approximate location of the “spot” (400 kilometers in diameter) on the Earth that was scanned by the OVIRS instrument to produce this spectral curve.

     

     

     

     

     

    OTES captured these infrared spectral curves during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Arizona State University

    OTES, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, captured these infrared spectral curves during Earth Gravity Assist on Sept. 22 2017, hours after the spacecraft’s closest approach. The peaks and valleys in the curves are known as absorption features and show differences in absorption of the sun’s energy due to different substances (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone) in Earth’s atmosphere. The curves also provide temperature information for different heights in the atmosphere. The smooth red and blue curves show the temperatures of the ocean surface and the stratosphere without the effects of the absorption features. OTES was built and is operated by Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.  The inset shows an image of Earth captured by OCAMS on the same date shows the approximate locations and sizes of the “spots” (each 800 kilometers in diameter) on the Earth that were scanned by the OTES instrument to produce these spectral curves.

  3. NASA’S OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Slingshots Past Earth

    September 22, 2017 -

    NASA’s asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth’s gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

    At 12:52 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22, the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft came within 10,711 miles (17,237 km) of Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile, before following a route north over the Pacific Ocean.

    OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 8, 2016, on an Atlas V 411 rocket. Although the rocket provided the spacecraft with all the momentum required to propel it forward to Bennu, OSIRIS-REx needed an extra boost from the Earth’s gravity to change its orbital plane. Bennu’s orbit around the Sun is tilted six degrees from Earth’s orbit, and this maneuver changed the spacecraft’s direction to put it on the path toward Bennu.

    As a result of the flyby, the velocity change to the spacecraft was 8,451 miles per hour (3.778 kilometers per second).

    “The encounter with Earth is fundamental to our rendezvous with Bennu,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The total velocity change from Earth’s gravity far exceeds the total fuel load of the OSIRIS-REx propulsion system, so we are really leveraging our Earth flyby to make a massive change to the OSIRIS-REx trajectory, specifically changing the tilt of the orbit to match Bennu.”

    The mission team also is using OSIRIS-REx’s Earth flyby as an opportunity to test and calibrate the spacecraft’s instrument suite. Approximately four hours after the point of closest approach, and on three subsequent days over the next two weeks, the spacecraft’s instruments will be turned on to scan Earth and the Moon. These data will be used to calibrate the spacecraft’s science instruments in preparation for OSIRIS-REx’s arrival at Bennu in late 2018.

    “The opportunity to collect science data over the next two weeks provides the OSIRIS-REx mission team with an excellent opportunity to practice for operations at Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “During the Earth flyby, the science and operations teams are co-located, performing daily activities together as they will during the asteroid encounter.”

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently on a seven-year journey to rendezvous with, study, and return a sample of Bennu to Earth. This sample of a primitive asteroid will help scientists understand the formation of our solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

  4. Large Binocular Telescope Snags First Glimpse of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Since Launch

    September 8, 2017 -

    This set of magnified, cropped images shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (highlighted in red) as it approaches Earth for its Sept. 22 Earth Gravity Assist. To improve visibility, the images have been inverted so that black and white are reversed. The images were taken Sept. 2, by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory located on Mount Graham in Arizona. This is the first Earth-based view of the spacecraft since its launch on Sept. 8, 2016.

    On Sept. 2, 2017, the Large Binocular Telescope on Mt. Graham, Ariz., imaged the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as the spacecraft approached Earth. This is the first Earth-based view of the spacecraft since its launch on Sept. 8, 2016. Credit: Large Binocular Telescope Observatory

    OSIRIS-REx, which was approximately 7 million miles (12 million kilometers) away when the images were taken, appears at approximately 25th magnitude.

    The Large Binocular Telescope is a pair of 8.4-meter mirrors mounted side by side on the same mount, that can work together to provide resolution equivalent to a 22.7-meter telescope. The telescope typically conducts imaging of more distant objects but took this opportunity to look for OSIRIS-REx with a pair of wide-field cameras (one per mirror) as the spacecraft approaches Earth for its gravity assist. This encounter will change the spacecraft’s trajectory and set it on course to rendezvous with asteroid Bennu, where it will collect a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study in 2023. The Large Binocular Telescope Observatory is headquartered on the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona.

    The OSIRIS-REx mission team is collecting other images of the spacecraft taken by observatories and other ground-based telescopes around the world during this period – approximately Sept. 10-23, depending on location and local conditions. Individuals and groups may submit images of the spacecraft via the mission’s website, where instructions to locate the spacecraft in the sky are also available.

    For more information on the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

    www.nasa.gov/osirisrex  and www.asteroidmission.org

    For more information on the Large Binocular Telescope, visit:

    www.lbto.org

  5. Spot the Spacecraft

    September 6, 2017 -

    On Sept. 22, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will make a close approach to Earth, using the planet’s gravity to slingshot itself toward the asteroid Bennu. Over the course of several days, observatories and amateur astronomers with specialized equipment will be able to see OSIRIS-REx as the spacecraft approaches and retreats from its closest position over Earth, approximately 11,000 miles (17,000 km) above the planet’s surface.

    The mission will collect images of OSIRIS-REx taken by observatories and other ground-based telescopes around the world during this period – approximately Sept. 10-23, depending on location and local conditions. Observers from the OSIRIS-REx Target Asteroids! citizen science program, who regularly volunteer their time to help scientists study near-Earth asteroids, will be among those who train their telescopes on the spacecraft’s path.

    “The opportunity to capture images of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as it approaches Earth provides a unique challenge for observers to hone their skills during this historic flyby,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “As the spacecraft approaches Earth for its own imaging campaign, ground-based observers will also be looking up and taking photos from the opposite perspective.”

    Individuals and groups may submit images of the spacecraft via the mission’s website, where instructions to locate the spacecraft in the sky are also available.

    “The team is eager and ready to execute the Earth Gravity Assist,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greeenbelt, Maryland. “Not only will it be a significant change in trajectory putting OSIRIS-REx on track for rendezvous with Bennu, it also represents a unique opportunity for the OSIRIS-REx instruments to observe our home planet. It is fantastic that ground based observers are also taking the opportunity to image OSIRIS-REx.”

    The images collected during the Earth gravity assist represent the last opportunity for Earth-based observers to see the spacecraft — until it returns to Earth in 2023 carrying a sample from asteroid Bennu.

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the home institution of several OSIRIS-REx science team members, will also work with the Japan Public Observatory Society and the Planetary Society of Japan to collect imagery from vantage points in Japan.

    Shortly before OSIRIS-REx reaches its closest distance from Earth, the spacecraft will fly over the eastern half of Australia, giving observers there some of the best opportunities to see and photograph the spacecraft. The Desert Fireball Network — an organization based at Curtin University, Perth, that studies meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits—will deploy observers to locations around Australia to track OSIRIS-REx across the sky.

    Members of the public without telescopes can still celebrate the Earth Gravity Assist by joining the “Wave to OSIRIS-REx” social media campaign. Individuals and groups from anywhere in the world are encouraged to take photos of themselves waving to OSIRIS-REx, share them using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account in their posts on Twitter (@OSIRISREx) or Instagram (@OSIRIS_REx).

    Participants may begin taking and sharing photos at any time — or wait until the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft makes its closest approach to Earth at 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s observation planning and processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the agency’s New Frontiers Program for its Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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