1. The OSIRIS-REx Sample Canister Lid is Removed

    September 27, 2023 -

    OSIRIS REx Asteroid Sample Return lid opening at Building 31 Astromaterials Curation Facility. Photo Date: September 26, 2023. Location: Bldg. 31 – OSIRIS REx Thin Section Lab. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

    NASA scientists found black dust and debris on the avionics deck of the OSIRIS-REx science canister when the initial lid was removed today. The canister from the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule was delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Sept. 25 after landing in the Utah desert on Sept. 24. Johnson houses the world’s largest collection of astromaterials, and curation experts there will perform the intricate disassembly of the Touch and Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) to get down to the bulk sample within. These operations are happening in a new laboratory designed specifically for the OSIRIS-REx mission. The aluminum lid was removed inside a glovebox designed to enable working with the large piece of hardware.

    When the TAGSAM is separated from the canister, it will be inserted in a sealed transfer container to preserve a nitrogen environment for up to about two hours. This container allows enough time for the team to insert the TAGSAM into another unique glovebox. Ultimately, this speeds up the disassembly process. There is a very high level of focus from the team — the sample will be revealed with an amazing amount of precision to accommodate delicate hardware removal so as not to come into contact with the sample inside.

    With an array of team members on deck, scientists and engineers at Johnson will work together to complete the disassembly process and reveal the sample to the world in a special live broadcast event on Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. ET, streamed at NASA.gov/live.

    Shaneequa Vereen
    NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston

  2. OSIRIS-REx Sample Capsule Released for Landing on Earth

    September 24, 2023 -
    Animated still showing OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching Earth.

    Animated still showing OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching Earth.

    Doppler data indicates that NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft released its sample capsule toward Earth at 6:42 a.m. EDT (4:42 a.m. MDT), as planned, from 63,000 miles of Earth’s surface – about one-third the distance from Earth to the Moon. 

    After traveling for about four hours through space, the capsule will enter the atmosphere off the coast of California at about 10:42 a.m. EDT (8:42 a.m. MDT) and head east. It will land about 13 minutes later in a predetermined 36-mile by 8.5-mile area on the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City.  


  3. OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Departs for New Mission

    September 24, 2023 -
    Animation of OSIRIS-REx spacecraft firing rockets to manuever away from Earth.

    Animation of OSIRIS-REx spacecraft firing rockets to manuever away from Earth.

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completed its final task for this mission when it released its sample capsule toward Earth on September 24, 2023. About 20 minutes after doing so, the spacecraft fired its engines to divert past Earth toward its new mission to asteroid Apophis and was renamed OSIRIS-APEX.

    Roughly 1,000 feet wide, Apophis will come within 20,000 miles of Earth – less than one-tenth the distance between Earth and the Moon – in 2029. OSIRIS-APEX is scheduled to enter orbit of Apophis soon after the asteroid’s close approach of Earth to see how the encounter affected the asteroid’s orbit, spin rate, and surface. 

  4. OSIRIS-REx team completes final test before asteroid sample delivery

    September 6, 2023 -
    Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta examines a model of the sample capsule.

    OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta examines a replica of the sample capsule, consisting of the heatshield (white) and the back shell (tan), following a successful drop test. (Chris Richards/University Communications)

    Members of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample recovery team gathered in Utah’s West Desert this week to participate in final preparations for the arrival of the first U.S.-collected asteroid sample, slated to land on Earth later this month.

    The team includes mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a University of Arizona Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences, and Anjani Polit, a senior systems engineer with the university’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory who serves as mission implementation systems engineer for the OSIRIS-REx mission.

    A mockup of the OSIRIS-REx sample capsule was dropped from an aircraft Wednesday and landed at the drop zone at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range in the desert outside Salt Lake City. This was part of the mission’s final major test prior to the Sept. 24 arrival of the actual capsule containing a sample of asteroid Bennu collected in space almost three years ago.

    “We are now mere weeks away from receiving a piece of solar system history on Earth, and this successful drop test ensures we’re ready,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

    The drop test followed a series of earlier rehearsals – focused on capsule recovery, spacecraft engineering operations and sample curation procedures – conducted in the spring and earlier this summer.

    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected a sample from asteroid Bennu in October 2020. Stowed safely inside the spacecraft’s sample return capsule, it will land in Utah via parachute.

    Researchers will study the sample in the coming years to learn about how our planet and solar system formed and about the origin of organics that may have led to life on Earth.

    Read more at UANews ->

  5. Final Rehearsal Prepares Mission Team for Sept. 24 Bennu Sample Retrieval

    September 5, 2023 -
    Image shows a capsule attached to its parachute on the ground.

    A capsule descends toward the ground under a parachute on Aug. 30, 2023. Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber.

    Though there are only a few weeks left until the mission’s seven-year journey comes to its climactic end, the mood of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team is calm. After months of rehearsals, it was clear during the final dress rehearsal this week in Utah that the team has mastered the intricate steps required to retrieve the sample of asteroid Bennu after it lands on Earth on Sept. 24.

    On Aug. 28 – 30, OSIRIS-REx team members simulated the procedures they will follow next month to navigate the spacecraft to Earth, instruct it to release the capsule carrying the asteroid sample, monitor the capsule as it flies through the atmosphere onto a predetermined landing ellipse at the Department of Defense’s Utah Test and Training Range, quickly retrieve it from the ground to prevent contamination from Earth’s environment, and transport it by helicopter to a temporary clean room on the range.

    Read more at NASA’s OSIRIS-REx blog ->