NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission is asking the public to help find the best place on asteroid Bennu to collect a sample for return to Earth for study. You can help by going to Bennu.cosmoquest.org and marking the locations of small rocks, boulders, and craters in high resolution images. In addition to finding safe places to grab a rock, your data will also help identify other scientifically interesting features on the asteroid.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been at Bennu since Dec. 3, 2018, mapping the asteroid in detail, while the mission team searches for a sample collection site that is safe, conducive to sample collection, and worthy of closer study. One of the biggest challenges of this effort is that Bennu has an extremely rocky surface and each boulder presents a danger to the spacecraft’s safety as it touches down and grabs a sample. To expedite the sample selection process, the team welcomes citizen scientist volunteers to develop a hazard map by flagging boulders.

“Volunteers for this Bennu Mappers project will be part of finding the rocks that OSIRIS-REx will bring home to Earth,” said Pamela L. Gay, CosmoQuest director and PSI senior scientist. “CosmoQuest invites everyday people to help the mission team find the safe rock to grab and the scientifically interesting places to further explore.

“This is precision work but not difficult work. The mapping app only works on computers, where you have a larger screen and can use a mouse or track pad to make precise marks,” Gay said. “There is an interactive tutorial to teach you everything you need to know, and the CosmoQuest team is here to help you through a Discord community and live-streaming sessions on Twitch.” To volunteer to be a Bennu mapper visit Bennu.cosmoquest.org.

The mission’s Touch-and-Go (TAG) sampling maneuver is scheduled for July 2020, and the spacecraft will return to Earth with its cargo in September 2023.

Visit the official press release page here – https://cosmoquest.org/x/nasa-invites-public-to-help-asteroid-mission-choose-sample-site/