1. NASA Invites Media to View Asteroid Sample Recovery Rehearsal

    June 8, 2023 -

    Artist’s concept of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    Editor’s note: This media advisory was updated Wednesday, June 7, 2023, to correctly reflect the times and dates of the events.

    NASA invites media to attend the first major asteroid sample recovery rehearsal for its OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) mission on Tuesday, June 27, to Wednesday, June 28, at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado.

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to capture a sample from the surface of an asteroid and deliver it back to Earth for the benefit of all. The delivery from asteroid Bennu will arrive Sept. 24, and help researchers study the origins of organics and water that could have led to life on Earth.

    Media will have the opportunity to:

    • Watch scientists and engineers conduct a sample capsule recovery practice outdoors, with an additional availability to view a clean room rehearsal the following day
    • Film video and take photos of the rehearsal activities
    • Interview mission experts from NASA, the University of Arizona, and Lockheed Martin
    • Tour Lockheed Martin’s mission operations area from where OSIRIS-REx is operated

    International media should RSVP no later than 12 p.m. ET Thursday, June 15, to Lauren Duda at lauren.e.duda@lmco.com to allow time for credentialing. U.S. media interested in attending one or both days of media activities, should RSVP no later than 12 p.m. ET Tuesday, June 20, to Lauren Duda at lauren.e.duda@lmco.com.

    Full coverage of the rehearsal is as follows (all times Mountain).

    Tuesday, June 27

    • 9 a.m. – Nominal Rehearsal of Sample Return Capsule
    • 10 a.m. – Interview Availability with Mission Experts
    • 11:30 a.m. – Tour Mission Operations Area

    Wednesday, June 28

    • 10 a.m. – Watch Nominal Clean Room Rehearsal
    • 12 p.m. – Interview Availability with Mission Experts

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator. The university leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Curation for OSIRIS-REx, including processing the sample when it arrives on Earth, will take place at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

    OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

    For more information about OSIRIS-REx, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex


    Karen Fox / Erin Morton
    Headquarters, Washington
    301-286-6284 / 202-805-9393
    karen.c.fox@nasa.gov / erin.morton@nasa.gov

    Last Updated: Jun 7, 2023
    Editor: Roxana Bardan
  2. NASA Scientist Visits Kennedy Ahead of OSIRIS-REx Return

    June 5, 2023 -

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) is on its way home with an otherworldly gift for Earth’s scientists – a sample from asteroid Bennu. With anticipation growing ahead of its Sept. 24 arrival, Dr. Jason Dworkin, project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the mission launched seven years ago.

    OSIRIS-REx Project Scientist, Dr. Jason Dworkin of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, presents a mission update inside the Mission Briefing Room of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on May 11, 2023. Launched seven years ago, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to return a material sample from asteroid Bennu on Sept. 24, 2023, when the sample return capsule separates from the spacecraft and lands by parachute at the Utah Test and Training Range/Dugway Proving Ground, southwest of Salt Lake City. OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material, and return it to Earth for study. Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

    In a launch managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, OSIRIS-REx lifted off Sept. 8, 2016, on an Atlas V 411 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (formerly Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) in Florida, as the third mission in the agency’s New Frontiers Program and the first U.S. mission to travel to an asteroid, retrieve samples, and return them to Earth.

    “The OSIRIS-REx Bennu samples are really a treasure trove of information about the history of our solar system that will not only solve the scientific questions that we’re asking today, but those that people will be asking for many generations into the future,” said Rex Englehart, Launch Services Program mission manager, who managed the launch in 2016.

    With a target of collecting 2.1 ounces (60 grams) of asteroid material – the largest asteroid sample ever received on Earth – scientists hoped studying material from the ancient solar system would shed light on some of science’s biggest mysteries.

    “Can we look at samples of leftover material from the remnants of our solar system – from asteroids – to understand this environment and everything that happened after it?” Dworkin asked the audience inside the Mission Briefing Room of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy. “That’s the goal of OSIRIS-REx – to understand that input of extraterrestrial material to the early Earth (or early Mars, Europa, Enceladus, etc.) and try to understand how this connects to the origin and early evolution of life.”

    Choosing from around 500,000 known asteroids in 2010 and aiming to retrieve the sample within the lifespan of the science and engineering team, project scientists selected asteroid Bennu from around 7,000 near-Earth asteroids – 192 with optimal orbits for sample return, 26 big enough not to be a fast-rotator, and five carbon-rich asteroids. Bennu was selected of these five since it was the best understood at the time.

    The spacecraft spent two years cruising to Bennu, arriving in August 2018, then entering into a .6-mile (1 km) orbit around the .3-mile (500 m) asteroid, later setting the record for closest orbit around the smallest object (500 m). Its specialized instruments mapped the asteroid’s surface, identified minerals and chemicals, and provided the information required for the mission team to select the site where the spacecraft’s Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) would collect the sample on Oct. 20, 2020, with Bennu 200 million miles (321 million km) from Earth at the time.

    “The surface of Bennu is so soft, like a children’s ball pit or freshly fallen snow,” Dworkin said. “This spacecraft descending at 10 cm per second didn’t even slow down. It kept going until the back-away thrusters fired automatically, and then we pulled it away and that left a crater and threw meter-sized rocks dozens of meters away.”

    OSIRIS-REx collected much more material than the mission target of 2.1 ounces (60 grams) – approximately 8.8 ounces (250 grams) – necessitating some adjustments from the mission team to quickly stow the sample for the return trip.

    “Sample collection is just the pinnacle of the mission so far,” Dworkin said. “Sixty grams is a lot of sample – 250 grams is a massive amount of sample.”

    When OSIRIS-REx returns to Earth this fall, the spacecraft will eject the sample return capsule from 155 miles (250 kilometers) above Earth. Mission teams will be ready to retrieve the capsule after it lands with the help of parachutes at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range/Dugway Proving Ground, southwest of Salt Lake City, transporting quickly to a cleanroom at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston where it will be curated.

    During the next two years, 25% of the sample material from asteroid Bennu will go to 200 scientists around the world for research, including Dworkin’s team at Goddard, using instruments too large and fussy to put on spacecraft. Most of the sample is reserved for future generations of scientists.

    “This is the legacy that OSIRIS-REx will bring,” Dworkin said. “Seventy-five percent of the sample is archived for scientists around the world to write proposals to, and material will be archived for decades as technology advances come up with new ideas and new techniques.”

    Its mission complete, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will fly on to a new target and mission with a new name: OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-APophis EXplorer). The spacecraft will head to the asteroid Apophis – a potentially hazardous asteroid roughly 1,200 feet (roughly 370 meters) in diameter that will come within 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) of Earth in 2029 – to study the changes in the asteroid by its close flyby of Earth.

    While a new generation of scientists will lead OSIRIS-APEX, Dworkin will continue following the asteroid Bennu sample and plans to return to Kennedy to share the science made possible through the OSIRIS-REx mission.

    “I love coming to Kennedy Space Center,” Dworkin said. “The launch pads are cathedrals to science. It is a region of contrast – it’s history and the future. It’s fire and water. It’s nature and technology.”

    By Jason Costa
    NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

    Related Link: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-scientist-visits-kennedy-ahead-of-osiris-rex-return