In the realm of space exploration, international collaboration is often key to success. One prime example of this cooperation is the OSIRIS-REx mission, led by NASA. It aimed to collect valuable samples from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. In this article, we will look into Canada’s Contribution to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx.
Canada’s OSIRIS-REx Contribution: The OLA Instrument
Canada’s involvement in the OSIRIS-REx mission was pivotal, as it provided the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) instrument. OLA’s primary function was to scan and measure the surface of the 500-meter-wide asteroid Bennu. The data collected by OLA was instrumental in creating a highly precise 3D model of the asteroid’s surface. It played a crucial role in helping mission planners determine the ideal landing spot for the spacecraft.
According to John Moores, the science adviser to the president of the Canadian Space Agency, this contribution grants Canadian scientists access to a portion of the asteroid material. The OLA instrument, through its remarkable capabilities. It laid down more than three billion measurements, resulting in an extraordinarily detailed map of Bennu.
Japan’s Role in the Mission
Japan also played a significant role in the OSIRIS-REx mission. In 2010 and 2020, Japan’s Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions returned to Earth with small samples of material from two different asteroids. In an act of international collaboration, NASA received a portion of these samples each time. This exchange of extraterrestrial materials is a testament to the collaborative spirit of space exploration.
The Journey Home and Recovery
The journey of the OSIRIS-REx mission didn’t end with the sample collection from Bennu. After a remarkable journey spanning nearly two billion kilometers, the spacecraft’s capsule returned to Earth. NASA deployed a specialized team, complete with helicopters, to recover the capsule from the desert. The capsule is now set to be transported to a temporary clean room at the U.S. Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range.
The recovery team will dedicate a day to carefully disassemble the capsule and prepare the sample for transport to a new laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston. At this center, a meticulous two-year analysis of the sample will take place. The highly anticipated moment when the sample is revealed to the public is scheduled for October 11.
Future Implications and Bennu’s Close Encounter
Bennu, discovered in 1999, falls into the category of “near-Earth objects” due to its relatively close approach to our planet every six years. It measures approximately half a kilometer in diameter, roughly the size of the Empire State Building. Interestingly, Bennu is projected to make a potentially hazardous close approach to Earth in 2182, raising concerns about a possible impact event.
The data gathered by OSIRIS-REx during its mission will be invaluable for any future asteroid-deflection efforts. Dante Lauretta, the mission’s lead scientist from the University of Arizona, stressed that the moment of truth will come when the capsule is opened in Houston, given the uncertainty surrounding the quantity of the collected material.
In conclusion, the OSIRIS-REx mission, with its international collaboration and technological achievements, marks a significant milestone in space exploration. Canada’s Contribution to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and the exchange of asteroid samples between nations demonstrate the power of cooperation in advancing our understanding of the cosmos. As we await the revelations from the Bennu samples, the knowledge gained from this mission will undoubtedly shape our ability to address potential asteroid threats in the future.