Expected 2023 return to Earth with the largest sample returned from space since the era of the Apollo missions
Space news (planetary science missions: sampling asteroid that was remnant of early solar system; OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s seven-year mission to asteroid Bennu) – 7:05 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida –
NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx mission to return a sample of a nearby asteroid that formed part of the early solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago at 7:05 on Thursday. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be the agency’s first automated envoy to rendezvous with a nearby asteroid and return a sample for planetary scientists to study and discuss.
“Today, we celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”
Scientists suspect asteroids like Bennu could have been the source of much of the water and possibly organic molecules of the Genesis of Earth-based life. An uncontaminated asteroid sample to precisely analysis might provide results far beyond those achieved by spacecraft instruments or studying meteorites that have fallen to Earth.
“With today’s successful launch, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft embarks on a journey of exploration to Bennu,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team that made this mission a reality, and I can’t wait to see what we will discover at Bennu.”
Doing a gravitational dance with asteroid Bennu
After rendezvousing with asteroid Bennu sometime in 2018, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will begin a delicate gravitational dance with the asteroid, mapping and studying its surface in preparation for collecting a sample. Around July 2020, the spacecraft will perform an intricate, daring maneuver designed to stir up surface material for collection. Plans are to scoop up at least two ounces (60 grams) of small rocks and dust in its onboard sample return container for planetary scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to examine in depth.
“It’s satisfying to see the culmination of years of effort from this outstanding team,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We were able to deliver OSIRIS-REx on time and under budget to the launch site, and will soon do something that no other NASA spacecraft has done – bring back a sample from an asteroid.”
Learn about small, near-Earth asteroid 25143 Itokawa.
Learn about NASA’s NEOWISE and its one year mission to detect near-Earth asteroids.
Watch this video of the liftoff of the OSIRIS-REx mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Join the space mission of NASA here.
Learn more about NASA’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Read more about the OSIRIS-REx mission.
Discover NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Read and learn more about asteroid Bennu.