About 50 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have designed and created a robot, the Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS) which had traveled to an asteroid and back - MIT News reported.
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A collaboration between MIT and Harvard University resulted in the success of the instrument, and it has been listed as one of the five instruments to fly with NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer).
NASA already revealed that REXIS was integrated onto its spacecraft, enabling it to come nearer to its plan of launching by September. After deployment, OSIRIS-Rex will get into orbit and then move on to Bennu, an asteroid that is close to Earth and that may contain evidence of formation from the early solar system.
It is anticipated that the spacecraft will get to Bennu around 2018, from where it will perform some scientific operations for about a year before grabbing some space rock samples and then head back to Earth in 2023. During this mission, REXIS will equally be able to study and analyze how solar X-rays interact with the soil of the asteroid to create the kind of elements present on the surface of Bennu.
Mark Chodas, a graduate student in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics disclosed that his team will continually ensure the instrument is performing optimally as soon as it launches from OSIRIS-Rex, and this entails opening up the protective cover shielding detectors inside the instrument from radiation damage while it was in transit to the asteroid. Without opening up, observers will not be able to fully observe things on Bennu asteroid.
Rebecca Masterson, instrument manager and research engineer with REXIS added that a custom built Frangibolt actuator from TiNi Aerospace is required to open up the radiation cover at the very critical moment. When the cover is about to open after arriving at Bennu, the spacecraft will transmit a command for the instrument to send power to the Frangibolt.
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Before this time historic moment, MIT students had earlier constructed the Student Dust Counter which deployed aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, and they discreetly got a lot of mentorship from AeroAstro, the Kavli Institute, and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, as well as off-campus mentors at MIT Lincoln Lab, Harvard, and NASA Goddard in building REXIS.