thanks to james tralie – who works as a planetary science video producer – we can get a closer look at NASA‘s OSIRIS-REx mission. as you’ll see from tralie’s short animation, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is on course to explore the near-earth asteroid, bennu. once it arrives on the surface of the asteroid in late october, the spacecraft will collect a sample and return it to earth.

watch how NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will navigate to an asteroid designboom

OSIRIS-REx approaches asteroid bennu at sample site nightingale

video and image courtesy of NASA’s goddard space flight center



to successfully arrive at bennu’s surface, the OSIRIS-REx will use an onboard image software known as natural feature tracking (NFT) — a form of optical navigation that is completely autonomous. NFT guides the spacecraft by comparing an onboard image catalog with the real-time navigation images it takes during descent, looking for specific landmarks on bennu’s surface in order to orient itself. this navigation technique allows the spacecraft to accurately target small sites while dodging potential hazards. the above video was animated by lead producer, james tralie, of NASA goddard space flight center in greenbelt, maryland



video info:


video name: natural feature tracking – animated mission design

lead producer/lead animator/lead editor: james tralie (ADNET)

animator: krystofer kim (USRA)

visualizer: kel elkins (USRA)

scientist: michael moreau (NASA/GSFC)

scientist: kenny getzandanner (NASA/GSFC)

scientist: ryan olds (lockheed martin)

scientist: sandra freund (lockheed martin)

animator: lisa poje (USRA)

technical support: aaron e. lepsch (ADNET)


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lynne myers | designboom