Mission to Bennu: studying the orbit of the asteroid, mapping the whole of its surface and returning a sample to Earth.

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OSIRIS-REx Canadian Team, Lidar will study Bennu Geology

When Arizona planetary scientists were planning an asteroid sample-return mission, they looked to Canada for a special instrument and expertise for studying the geology of their target asteroid, 101955 Bennu.

NASA selected OSIRIS-REx as a mission of its New Frontiers Program in May 2011, and in doing so, Canada became a partner in an international mission to return an extraterrestrial sample to Earth.

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OSIRIS-REx Reaches Important Milestone

Construction Begins on NASA Spacecraft

It has been ten years since the OSIRIS team first came together to develop an Asteroid Sample Return Mission concept for the NASA Discovery Program. Now, as the OSIRIS-REx team, we are the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. With the successful completion of the Mission Critical Design Review (CDR), our focus now turns to implementation. We can now begin building the spacecraft and instrumentation, as proposed and approved.

Leading the OSIRIS-REx team is the principal investigator, Dante Lauretta, from the University of Arizona. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management; systems engineering and safety; and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver will build and operate the spacecraft, while NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL, manages the New Frontiers Program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

OSIRIS-REx is scheduled for launch in the Fall of 2016. The spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. The budget for the mission is just over $800 million plus the cost of the launch vehicle.

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Why Bennu? What Are Our Mission Objectives?

Bennu (the asteroid formerly known as “1999 RQ36”) is a time capsule from 4.5 billion years ago. A pristine, carbonaceous asteroid containing the original material from the solar nebula, from which our Solar System formed. This is the first U.S. mission to return samples from an asteroid to Earth, addressing multiple NASA Solar System Exploration objectives to understand not just the origin of the Solar System, but the origin of water and organic material on Earth.

Key OSIRIS-REx science objectives include:

  • Return and analyze a sample
  • Create maps of the asteroid
  • Document the sample site
  • Measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces
  • Compare observations at the asteroid to ground-based observations

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) will launch from Earth and travel for nearly two years to the asteroid Bennu. Upon arrival, OSIRIS-REx will map the total surface, creating a detailed shape model of the asteroid. OSIRIS-REx will also measure the magnitude of the Yarkovsky effect, a factor in the orbits of asteroids that may pose a threat to Earth. The craft will then approach — not land upon — Bennu, and extend a robotic arm to obtain a sample of pristine surface material (at least 60 grams or 2.1 ounces).

Returning to Earth in a Sample Return Capsule, a proven model originally used during the NASA Stardust mission, the material will then be studied by scientists at the NASA Johnson Space Center and from around the world for clues about the composition of the very early Solar System, the source of what may have made life possible on Earth. The data collected at the asteroid will aid our understanding of asteroids that pose an impact hazard to Earth, and the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will be a pathfinder for future spacecraft that perform reconnaissance on any newly-discovered threatening objects.

Join Us In Our Mission

Our mission to Bennu is a very long ride. Join us along the way, and stay up to date on all mission updates by:

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