OSIRIS-REX WILL GIVE BENNU A FISTBUMP WITH THE HELP OF AN INSTRUMENT CALLED TOUCH-AND-GO-SAMPLE-ACQUISITION-MECHANISM, OR TAGSAM.
The 11-foot-long arm is riding aboard along with six other science gadgets, which include cameras, spectrometers, a laser altimeter, and an X-ray imaging system. Collecting the sample will take only about five seconds, and if the first try is unsuccessful, OSIRIS-REx can try, try again – up to three times. “We want this to be a safe, slow high-five of that surface,” says NASA’s Christina Richey. (NASA is calling it a high-five, but we’re going with fistbump.)
THIS ISN’T THE FIRST TIME WE’VE BROUGHT BITS OF AN ASTEROID BACK TO EARTH.
A Japanese spacecraft named Hayabusa did this in 2010, when it returned from a liaison with the asteroid Itokawa. That particular mission didn’t exactly go as planned, though, and Hayabusa only returned with a tiny amount of Itokawa.
SOME OF YOU WILL BE GOING ON A ROUND-TRIP TO BENNU.
In name, at least. Hundreds of thousands of names, submitted through The Planetary Society, are hitching a ride on the sample return capsule. Another device will be keeping those names aboard the spacecraft as well. Not present: Legos, a golden record, or ashes, as far as we know.