Since arriving at near-Earth asteroid Bennu in December 2018, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has been studying this small world of boulders, rocks, and loose rubble – and looking for a place to touch down. The goal of OSIRIS-REx is to collect a sample of Bennu in mid-2020, and return it to Earth in late 2023.
Bennu turned out to be rockier than anticipated, but mission planners have now identified four sites on its surface that are smooth enough for OSIRIS-REx to collect a sample. The mission will down-select to the final two sites – a primary and a backup – in December 2019. Like the mythological Bennu bird for which the asteroid is named, all of the candidate sample sites refer to birds that can be found in Egypt.
Video Credit: NASA Goddard