Introduction: Mapping Bennu (02:15)
Philip Christensen of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration explains how asteroids were formed. He believes they contain organic material that may have been instrumental to the development of life on Earth.
Christensen explains how his team became involved in the mission to explore the asteroid, Bennu. Engineer Greg Mehall explains the Osiris-Rex Therman Emissions Spectrometer (OTES), a payload for studying minerology and thermal processes on the asteroid. The objective is to bring a 60-gram sample to Earth.
Mehall explains that OTES is patterned after the Miniature Thermal Emissions Spectrometer (Mini-TES) that is installed in the Mars Rovers. The device measures omitted infrared light, breaking it up into a spectrum that helps identify the mineral composition of samples.
Building OTES (01:33)
Mehall says the project represents the first time his team has been able to build an instrument on ASU’s campus. He and Christensen describe the infrastructure and equipment that are required to complete the project.
OTES Team (01:45)
System Engineer Stillman Chase is responsible for setting the tone of the project. Mehall is ultimately responsible for making sure the instrument works. Mechanical Engineer Bill O’Donnell is “the hands of this operation.” The team has 21 members in all.
Critical Design Review (01:58)
OSIRIS-REx Project Planning & Control Officer Heather Enos explains the process of ensuring the OTES design meets requirements that are necessary for the mission. Mehall discusses the need to plan around technical, environmental and subcontractor challenges and other “unknown unknowns.”
The Real Thing (03:52)
The team has begun building the flight instrument. O’Donnell has just completed the moving mirror assembly, intricate hardware that took weeks to assemble. Engineers must log the tiniest details of assembly, down to the application of a drop of glue.
Test Phase (05:38)
It is April 2015, and the team has begun environmental testing. OTES is tested for vibration, electromagnetic interference and other conditions it will encounter in space. The testing is tedious, but the engineers must be thorough to ensure they haven’t missed something.
The Journey Begins (01:59)
The instrument is done and working extremely well. There is a feeling of elation as OTES heads out the door to be delivered to Lockheed Martin in Denver. The device is tested, integrated into the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and scheduled for launch in 2016.
The Launch (02:47)
The team gathers at Cape Canaveral to watch the OSIRIS-REx launch on Sept. 8, 2016. Christiansen characterizes the event as the fulfillment of a dream. The launch goes off without a hitch, and there is a huge sigh of relief.
Credits: Project Asteroid: Mapping Bennu (00:29)
Project Asteroid: Mapping Bennu
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