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New Software Traces OSIRIS-REx’s Complex Route to Asteroid Bennu

Sep 15, 2016 05:42 AM EDT
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A new software tracing the route of NASA's asteroid mission was recently previewed at the American Museum of Natural History's (AMNH) Hayden Planetarium.

A simulation of the OSIRIS-REX spacecraft's planned orbit of asteroid Bennu was shown in a special presentation on Sept. 12. The visualization was created in OpenSpace, an open-source platform that visualizes space missions in 3D funded by NASA. It provides the public with a view of the processes and space objects from different perspectives.

The visualization for OSIRIS-REx traced the spacecraft from its launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sept. 8 through its journey from Earth and toward asteroid Bennu's orbit. The spacecraft is expected to reach the asteroid in August 2018, map the surface and collect a sample, which will be carried back to Earth by 2023.

During its journey, OSIRIS-REx will double back and whip past the Earth to gain speed. The spacecraft will also orbit Bennu a number of times to map its surface and find a landing site, Space.com reports.

The platform is being developed by AMNH's science visualization team, in partnership with the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, the University of Utah's Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, and Linköping University in Sweden.

"While our use of the Digital Universe has provided an illuminating view of the known cosmos, OpenSpace aims to bring this 'seeing is believing' approach a step further," Carter Emmart, AMNH's director of astro-visualization, said during the event, as reported by Spaceflight Insider.

"Whether it's dynamically simulating NASA missions, fostering scientific collaboration through an open source design, or synchronizing presentations with planetariums across the globe, OpenSpace hopes to take a sense of discovery that is usually reserved for those in mission control and make it a shared one."

The software was also used for the real-time simulation of the New Horizon mission's flyby to Pluto, and the presentation was conducted via a worldwide Google Hangout.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission aims to study asteroid samples that could provide knowledge about the origin and evolution of life on Earth. Moreover, the mission could also provide insight on how to prevent a potential asteroid collision.

Read More:
NASA’s Asteroid Mission Gets Help From Canadian Space Instrument
OSIRIS-REx Update: Lockheed Martin Found a Way to Collect Asteroid Samples
NASA’s Asteroid Mission Could Save Earth From Potential Impact

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