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After flying in space for more than two years, NASA's spacecraft OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) recently entered into orbit around its target, the asteroid Bennu. Asteroids like Bennu are considered to be leftover debris from the formation of our solar system. So, in the first mission of its kind flown by NASA, OSIRIS-REx is looking to retrieve a sample and bring it to Earth.
In addition to several instruments onboard the spacecraft is an MIT student-built one called the REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS), which will provide data to help select the sampling site, as well as other mission objectives, including characterizing the asteroid and its behaviors, and comparing those to ground-based observations. REXIS is a joint project between the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro), the Harvard College Observatory, the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
Bennu - OSIRIS-REx - Researchers - Water - Asteroid
Shortly after arriving at Bennu, OSIRIS-REx researchers announced that they had identified water on the asteroid, possibly impacting selection of the sampling site. EAPS spoke with Richard Binzel—an expert on asteroids at MIT and co-investigator on this mission, leading the development of REXIS—about the instrument's role and what this finding means for the future use of similar devices. Binzel is also professor of planetary sciences in EAPS with a joint appointment in AeroAstro, and a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow.
Q: What is the purpose of REXIS, as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission?
Goal - OSIRIS-REx - Mission - Sample - Surface
A: The goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to obtain a pristine sample from the surface of the asteroid, Bennu, that has some of the most original, surviving chemistry from the very beginning of our solar system. The asteroid is like a time capsule, which is going to tell us what the condition of our...
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