The University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission successfully completed its second in-space rehearsal for its sampling of the asteroid Bennu.
On Tuesday, the craft came within 41 meters of the asteroid. The rehearsal was called a “matchpoint maneuver,” where the craft descended and matched the rotational speed of the asteroid.
“This basically gets us hovering over the sample collection site and preparing for our descent down to make contact with the surface and collect that precious material,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission's principal investigator.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make contact with the asteroid in October to collect that sample.
In addition to making its closest approach to the asteroid, part of this rehearsal was also extending the collection arm.
“We’ve done that several times before so we’re pretty confident that those motors are in good shape, that the hardware is still strong and sturdy. And we’re always happy to see it actually because it gets into the field of view of one of the cameras, so it is like seeing an old friend when those pictures come back from space,” said Lauretta.
Most of the OSIRIS-REx team was not in mission control for the Matchpoint rehearsal. Instead, they were in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.