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Led by the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Lab, OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to retrieve a sample from an asteroid and return it Earth for study. The material it returns will be the largest sample brought back from space since the Apollo era.
Launched on Sept. 8, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose makeup may record the earliest history of our solar system, and take a sample of its surface. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the more potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century.
OSIRIS-REx will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics and precious metals. In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and manned spacecraft.
The mission's operations are headquartered at the UA. The spacecraft will rendezvous with asteroid Bennu in 2018. Sample return to Earth occurs in 2023.
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