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Grabbing a piece of an ateroid; OSIRIS-REx launch scheduled for today (Sept 8)

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posted on Sep, 8 2016 @ 02:29 PM
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Florida today at 7:05 PM Eastern Time, or maybe later.

OSIRIS-REx is the short name given to the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. The mission's plan is to take the spacecraft to the Asteroid 101955 Bennu to study it -- PLUS it will grab up to 2 kg (up to more than 4 pounds) of material from Bennu, and return that material back to Earth for study.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most 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.

Asteroids such as Bennu are scientifically interesting because they are little time capsules of the raw materials from which the planets were formed. It is thought that asteroids such a Bennu may contain the building blocks of life. and that the planets were creating with these building blocks present. It is also though that much of Earth's water may come from certain kinds of asteroids.

[edit to add]
On top of that pure science interest, Asteroid Bennu is also of interest because it is an Earth-crossing asteroid that ahs a relatively high possibility of impacting Earth between the years 2169 and 2199 (there are eight different possible time in that period that it could impact Earth). So knowing more about the composition of asteroids such as Bennu -- and knowing the composition of Bennu specifically -- would be helpful in devising plans to prevent such impacts.

OSIRIS-REx Mission Homepage

The launch coverage begins at 4:30 Eastern Time with a two-hour launch window that begins at 7:05 PM

One thing, though -- we need to be patient with this mission, because it will take it a while. In order for this mission to be able to fit withing NASA's already tight budget, it needed to be done in a cost-effective manner. That means instead of a large craft with a heavy and powerful booster stage that sends it immediately towards the asteroid, the craft will take a round-about path first around the Sun, and then back toward Earth in order to take advantage of a "gravity assist" boost from Earth that will help slingshot it toward Bennu, with arrival scheduled in about 2 years (August 2018)....

...AND THEN after the sample is taken (see the video above for the manner it which the sample is gathered) there would be a waiting period for the next opportunity for OSIRIS-REx and Earth to be in the right position for the sample return capsule to be able to make it back to Earth -- and the window for that opens in March 2021. Then it will take 2 1/2 years for the small pasule to make it back to Earth.

So the sample would not be here until September 2023. But hopefully the wait would be worth it.

edit on 2016-9-8 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 8 2016 @ 02:35 PM
I must say.. What a well written and informative post..

Thanks for the info, wasn't aware of this mission.. Shame it's going to take so long, but an ingenious method of doing it none the less.

Star and flag for you
edit on 8/9/16 by Misterlondon because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 8 2016 @ 02:37 PM
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People

If successful, they will be succeeding where Bruce Willis & Ben Affleck failed...

It's too bad we will have t wait several years BUT I really, really hope they can pull it off! Rooting for OSIRIS-REx!!!

posted on Sep, 8 2016 @ 06:38 PM
The launch was successful, and everything seems to be going well. The Centaur upper stage has successfully taken over.

Here's another video that explains the sample collecting part of the mission, and gives a little more detail about the organic "building blocks of life" material NASA hopes to find on Asteroid Bennu.

posted on Sep, 8 2016 @ 07:00 PM
a reply to: Soylent Green Is People

I stumbled upon a live NASA stream Tuesday which talked about this mission. I only caught the end of it in which an astrobiologist talked about what they are planning on finding, if I remember correctly I believe he said that it is possible the asteroid will contain over one hundred different kinds of amino acids and its very possible to discover new ones.

It will be awesome to see what they discover in 7 years.

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