Asteroid Bennu & The MicroGNeXT Project

First, just some fun stuff. The images shown below are from the OsirisREX asteroid reconnaissance spacecraft mission while it traversed the southern hemisphere of asteroid Bennu [Source].

The heart is an optical illusion which is in fact the biggest boulder on Bennu, clocking in at a whopping 45 meters in diameter. The original image is rotated 90 degrees and the boulder has been coloured in an a pink hue ๐Ÿ˜Ž

The Music of bennu

Bennu and the OsirisREX mission have been the inspiration for the musical composition Arisen X.

OsirisREX & Asteroid Regolith

Discovering the properties of asteroid regolith is precisely why we have a space craft out there doing reconnaissance with scientific instruments taking samples that will be returned to Earth.

Having physical samples for science helps harden an asteroid impact mitigation strategy. The regolith could be very soft, or it could be very hard. We donโ€™t really know for sure, so this is a massive step towards fully understanding what the asteroid is made of.

Future asteroid redirection missions will need to know what technique will work best and this will be based upon the data provided by the OsirisREX mission.

A soft surface may absorb most of the useful kinetic energy from an impact projectile or explosive versus a tough and solid surface.

The Asteroid Anchor – MicroGNExT

Asteroid regolith- a very interesting subject! The feasibility of attaching an astronaut safely to an asteroid has been a genuine practical engineering challenge set forth for real science to answer. Using physical experiments and simulation testing at the underwater astronaut training ground- The NBL (Neutral Buoyancy Lab) in Houston, Texas.

Back in early 2016, a project took place at Columbia University New York through the Columbia Space Initiative program, setting the stage for a unique friendly practical engineering challenge between teams from several competing universities.

The teams were tasked with building an anchor capable of surface penetration and ingress under human strength in a micro-gravity environment.

After completing the build and passing the necessary design milestones, the Columbia team were then invited to participate in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab simulation where it would be tested in the underwater spacewalk environment by astronauts. This is the same place that houses a replica of the international space station for astronaut training.

Will they get through to the end stage? Will their design succeed or fail? No spoilers, find out for yourself, its a great watch.

Enjoy the show!

CSI Micro-G Goes to Texas- Day 0
CSI Micro-G Goes to Texas- Day 1
CSI Micro-G Goes to Texas- Day 2
CSI Micro-G Goes to Texas- Day 3
2016 Micro-G Diver Footage!

Huge thanks to Kristina, and Julia (@astroboticist) who stayed in touch with me via Twitter (@ColumbiaSI) during the design, build and test phases.

As an aside- having fulfilled their social media outreach segment of the challenge the team earned the extra special VIP tour of the NBL with astronaut Mike Massimino. According to Kristina, that may have been down to my โ€œSparklefingeredโ€ touch ๐Ÿ˜‰

Be sure to subscribe to the Columbia Science Initiative youtube channel for potential future projects. All photo credits: Columbia Space Initiative.