Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Journal articles

The unexpected surface of asteroid (101955) Bennu

Abstract : NASA’S Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft recently arrived at the near-Earth asteroid (101955) Bennu, a primitive body that represents the objects that may have brought prebiotic molecules and volatiles such as water to Earth1. Bennu is a low-albedo B-type asteroid2 that has been linked to organic-rich hydrated carbonaceous chondrites3. Such meteorites are altered by ejection from their parent body and contaminated by atmospheric entry and terrestrial microbes. Therefore, the primary mission objective is to return a sample of Bennu to Earth that is pristine—that is, not affected by these processes4. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft carries a sophisticated suite of instruments to characterize Bennu’s global properties, support the selection of a sampling site and document that site at a sub-centimetre scale5,6,7,8,9,10,11. Here we consider early OSIRIS-REx observations of Bennu to understand how the asteroid’s properties compare to pre-encounter expectations and to assess the prospects for sample return. The bulk composition of Bennu appears to be hydrated and volatile-rich, as expected. However, in contrast to pre-encounter modelling of Bennu’s thermal inertia12 and radar polarization ratios13—which indicated a generally smooth surface covered by centimetre-scale particles—resolved imaging reveals an unexpected surficial diversity. The albedo, texture, particle size and roughness are beyond the spacecraft design specifications. On the basis of our pre-encounter knowledge, we developed a sampling strategy to target 50-metre-diameter patches of loose regolith with grain sizes smaller than two centimetres4. We observe only a small number of apparently hazard-free regions, of the order of 5 to 20 metres in extent, the sampling of which poses a substantial challenge to mission success.
Document type :
Journal articles
Complete list of metadata

https://hal-mines-paristech.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02417570
Contributor : Magalie Prudon <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 11:50:57 AM
Last modification on : Friday, May 21, 2021 - 5:58:04 PM

Links full text

Identifiers

Citation

D.S Lauretta, D. Dellagiustina, C. Bennett, D. Golish, K. Becker, et al.. The unexpected surface of asteroid (101955) Bennu. Nature, Nature Publishing Group, 2019, 568 (7750), pp.55-60. ⟨10.1038/s41586-019-1033-6⟩. ⟨hal-02417570⟩

Share

Metrics

Record views

116