Space is Wildcat country
Make history with us. Again.
UA expert and student scientists have explored the Sun up close and discovered ice on Mars. We have been a part of every major NASA planetary mission and will now bring part of an asteroid home for the first time in US history.
- Are we alone in the universe?
- How did our oceans form?
- How do we prevent an asteroid-Earth collision?
These are just a few of the questions we aim to answer by studying a small sample of asteroid surface material.
OSIRIS-REx stands for:
Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer
We know asteroids—700,000 of them.
We chose Bennu because:
- It is carbon-rich, a key element necessary for life.
- It has not changed much in 4.5 billion years, so it’s like going back in time.
- Its orbit is in a favorable proximity to the Sun (not too hot, not too cold, just right).
- It rotates once every four hours, slow enough for contact.
Bennu is also a potential hazard with a very slim 1 in 2,700 chance of colliding with Earth late in the 22nd century. However, due to its relatively small size, the impact would not destroy our planet.
The OSIRIS-REx mission is a seven-year quest. Are you ready for an epic adventure?
Launch date: September 8, 2016
Top 10 ways we’ll outsmart space over the next seven years:
#10 Bring our A-game
The UA Mission Operations Center will plan the spacecraft’s operations.
#9 Move like Jagger
The spacecraft will use a series of deep space maneuvers to accelerate, even using Earth’s orbital energy to sling it toward Bennu.
#8 Jog, sprint, rest
Rocket thrusters will help the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft race to Bennu, then slow down to a mere 63,000 mph.
#7 Hover (not creepy)
OSIRIS-REx will reach Bennu at the same time, location, and speed, then the craft will hold that velocity for a year.
#6 Map it
OSIRIS-REx will survey Bennu with cameras built at the UA to create a detailed, 3-D model.
#5 Keep it clean
Our solar panels must be clean to function. They'll rise to an angle so any trace of asteroid dust will slide right off.
#4 Do the robot
The spacecraft’s robotic arm will release a jet of nitrogen gas to make the surface dust “bounce.”
#3 Stay alert
Mission control will watch out for hazards as OSIRIS-REx approaches Bennu for the touch-and-go arm maneuver (TAG, you’re it).
#2 Pack light
Two ounces and up to four pounds of surface matter will give us 40 years of scientific study.
#1 Bear Down
Rise up. The 2-hour daily launch window opens September 8, 2016, and will last 34 days.
Behind the names
The UA’s late Michael Drake and principal investigator Dante Lauretta began talking about a potential asteroid sample return mission in 2004. It took us seven years to convince NASA to fly this mission!
When it came to the name OSIRIS-REx, Dante Lauretta was doodling on a pad trying to capture the themes of the mission. Also a mythology buff, he found similarities with the ancient Egyptian god Osiris who may have been one of the first pharaohs. Michael Drake agreed; the name Osiris made sense.
REx, for Regolith Explorer, was tacked on later. “Rex” means “king” in Latin.
The asteroid Bennu was named when nine-year-old Mike Puzio from North Carolina won the international student contest. He imagined the Touch-and-Go Sample Mechanism (TAGSAM) arm and solar panels on OSIRIS-REx look like the neck and wings of Bennu, which Egyptians often depicted as a gray heron.