Last week, the Twitter account dedicated to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft tweeted: “Have access to a 3D printer? Print your very own shape model of asteroid Bennu! Files for both the 2013 ground-based radar model and the updated shape model released in December are available to download.”
Bennu is an asteroid just 70 million miles (or 110 million kilometers) from Earth. Despite its (relative) proximity, it’s unlikely to pose a threat to Earth until the earliest date of 2175.
In September 2016, NASA sent the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (or OSIRISREx for short) to learn more about the asteroid and its trajectory.
During the spacecraft’s approach to Bennu, it collected data using its Camera Suite (OCAMS). This data was used to develop a new preliminary shape model which can now be 3D printed.
However, many on Twitter point out that, depending on the quality of your 3D printer, you may just end up with a large spherical lump.
Before takeoff, the team planned their mission by using a shape model of the asteroid developed based on radar observations taken from the Arecibo Observatory and Goldstone tracking station. This model didn’t predict surface topography.
After two years and over two billion kilometers, the spacecraft entered into orbit around Bennu on December 31st, 2018. This makes Bennu the smallest object ever orbited by a man-made spacecraft.
“The team continued our long string of successes by executing the orbit-insertion maneuver perfectly,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “With the navigation campaign coming to an end, we are looking forward to the scientific mapping and sample site selection phase of the mission.”
The data received during OSIRISREx approach to Bennu shows that the original model made in 2013 “closely predicted” the overall shape, diameter, rotation rate and inclination of the asteroid.
However, the new 3D printable model available on the Asteroid Mission website shows features on Bennu as small as six meters.
OSIRIS-REx will orbit Bennu, attempting to find landing sites where it can collect a sample of the asteroid, before returning to Earth in 2023. Follow the spacecraft’s Twitter account to stay up to date on its progress.
For more space-related news, check out these links:
Source: Asteroid Mission
License: The text of "NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission Creates 3D Printable Model of Bennu Asteroid" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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