The OSIRIS-REx mission is a seven-year quest. Are you ready for an epic adventure?
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 almost 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—822,000 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.
Top 10 ways we'll outsmart space over the next seven years:
Bring our A-game
The UA Mission Operations Center will plan the spacecraft’s operations.
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.
Jog, sprint, rest
Rocket thrusters will help the Lockheed Martin-built spacecraft race to Bennu, then slow down to a mere 63,000 mph.
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.
OSIRIS-REx will survey Bennu with cameras built at the UA to create a detailed, 3-D model.
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.
Do the robot
The spacecraft’s robotic arm will release a jet of nitrogen gas to make the surface dust “bounce.”
Mission control will watch out for hazards as OSIRIS-REx approaches Bennu for the touch-and-go arm maneuver (TAG, you’re it).
Two ounces and up to four pounds of surface matter will give us 40 years of scientific study.
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.