NASA to Launch Mission to Asteroid in 2016, Robotic Arm Will Pluck Samples From Asteroid

Posted on May 25, 2011

NASA Osiris Rex Mission

NASA has announced plans to launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016. The plans include using a robotic arm to pluck samples from the asteroid. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

After traveling four years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2020. RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter, which is about the size of five football fields.

Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team will pick a location for the spacecraft's arm to take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023.

Photo: NASA

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