CAMBRIDGE, MA—The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation selected Courtney Mario of Draper’s OSIRIS-REx team for contributions that enabled the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to perform a touch-and-go sample collection to the asteroid Bennu. Mario was awarded a 2022 Stellar award in the Early Career category at the Annual RNASA Awards Gala.
Mario contributed to the development of the vision-aided autonomous navigation systems for OSIRIS-REx, which was built by Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program.
Notable to the mission was the ability of OSIRIS-REx to navigate with full autonomy to the asteroid surface within one meter of its target site, in an area surrounded by hazardous boulders, and collect a sample in an area only eight meters in diameter. The spacecraft navigated its way to the surface by comparing camera images collected onboard during descent with surface features from Bennu shape model data, using a navigation system called Natural Feature Tracking (NFT) designed by Lockheed Martin and developed for the mission with contributions from Draper.
“This accomplishment continues our deep heritage in navigation systems and is a great example of how we transition advanced technology to strengthen the nation’s scientific, government and commercial sectors,” said Pete Paceley, Draper’s principal director of Commercial and Civil Space Systems.
RNASA said in its statement that Mario was selected for her “exceptional technical knowledge in developing autonomous vision navigation systems, dedication and collaborative skills enabling the successful OSIRIS-REx sample collection maneuver.”
NASA recently extended OSIRIS-REx’s mission to visit another near-Earth asteroid, Apophis.
RNASA, which is based in Houston, Texas, honors individuals and teams from the government, military and industry based on the potential that the honorees’ work holds for advancing future activities in space. The Space Center Rotary Club established RNASA in 1985 to recognize outstanding achievements in space and promote the benefits of space exploration.
Lockheed Martin designed and built the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, asteroid sampling system and sample return capsule, performs spacecraft flight operation and led development of the Natural Feature Tracking system. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona leads the mission and the science team.