OSIRIS-REx is an acronym that incorporates the mission’s major concepts and goals. When the mission was first being formed, then-Deputy Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta was working to define the science investigation for an asteroid sample return mission. In writing out a list of the big ideas that the science plan would be based on, Dr. Lauretta realized that they spelled out OSIRIS.
O – Origins
Return and analyze a sample of a pristine carbon-righ asteroid to study the nature, history, and distribution of its minerals and organic material.
SI – Spectral Interpretation
Define the global properties of a primitive carbon-rich asteroid to allow for direct comparison with existing ground-based telescopic data for all asteroids.
RI – Resource Identification
Map the global properties, chemistry, mineralogy of a primitive carbon-rich asteroid to define its geologic and dynamic history and provide context for the returned sample.
S – Security
Measure the Yarkovsky Effect* on a potentially hazardous asteroid and learn which asteroid properties contribute to this effect.
*A force caused by the emission of heat from a rotating asteroid that can change its orbit over time
REx – Regolith Explorer
Document the texture, morphology, geochemistry, and spectral properties of the regolith (surface material) at the sampling site.
The mythology of the Egyptian god Osiris loosely parallels the OSIRIS-REx mission. Osiris, in his original form, was believed to have spread an understanding of agriculture throughout the Nile Delta, hence bringing life to the ancient world. Likewise, OSIRIS-REx seeks to return samples of an asteroid that may contain organics that led to the origin of life on Earth. Osiris also had a dual role as the god of the Underworld, which mirrors the destruction that large asteroid impacts have created.