NASA Mission to Sample Asteroid Set for September Launch
Posted on May 23, 2016
NASA has announced that it has scheduled its asteroid sampling mission for September. This will be the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid. The spacecraft that will be used is called OSIRIS-REx. This stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security - Regolith Explorer. OSIRIS-REx will travel to and collect surface material from the asteroid Bennu and return it to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sept. 8, 2016. It will take about two years for the spacecraft to reach Bennu in 2018. OSIRIS-REx will spend two years conducting surface mapping and sample site reconnaissance operations before performing the sampling maneuver in 2020. It will return to Earth with the Bennu sample in 2023.
Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson, says in a statement, "This team has done a phenomenal job of assembling and testing the spacecraft. As we begin the final preparations for launch, I am confident that this spacecraft is ready to perform its science operations at Bennu. And I can’t wait to fly it."
A website for the OSIRIS-REx mission can be found at asteroidmission.org. Here is a video showing the path OSIRIS-REx will take on its journey to asteroid Bennu and back to Earth