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NASA's OSIRIS-Rex Prepped for Launch to Asteroid Bennu

Aug 24, 2016 08:01 AM EDT
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NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is all prepped up and ready to launch. The space agency has even released a highlight involving the spacecraft's mission. Here's what OSIRIS-REx will be up to on its mission to asteroid Bennu.

"The launch of OSIRIS-REx is the beginning a seven-year journey to return pristine samples from asteroid Bennu," stated Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator. "The team has built an amazing spacecraft, and we are well-equipped to investigate Bennu and return with our scientific treasure."

Weighing 4,650 pounds when fully-fueled, OSIRIS-REx will collect 2 to 60 ounces of asteroid components once it lands on Bennu by 2018. If all goes as planned, the detachable capsule of the spacecraft will return to Earth carrying the samples by 2023.

OSIRIS-REx has five scientific instruments to study asteroid Bennu. In a report by Space Flight Insider, these are as follows:

  •  OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS): System of cameras that will provide sample site imaging and global imaging.
  •  OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA): Scanning Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) which will measure the distance between the surface of Bennu and the spacecraft. Also, it will map the shape of the asteroid.
  •  OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES): An instrument that will investigate the abundance of minerals as well as provide information on temperature along with observations in the thermal infrared spectrum.
  •  OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS): Instrument which will measure infrared and visible light from Bennu, that will identify organic and mineral material as well.
  •  Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS): Instrument that will observe X-ray spectrum to identify chemical elements on the surface of the asteroid.

"Typically, we'd just trying to make sure that the instrument works so that they [scientists working on the mission] can do their science, in this case, the contamination that could get into the sample, would limit their ability to find life origins and the sources of which that they are trying to determine," shared Chris Lorentson, contamination engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. "All living beings that we are aware of have DNA and we're looking for indicators that there may have been life on these rocks prior to us finding them."

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