With NASA’s OSIRIS-REx poised for launch on Sept. 8, Dr. John S. Lewis, chief scientist at Deep Space Industries, explores its mission target, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
It’s called Bennu. And scientists have been waiting for a long time to get their hands on it.
Scheduled for a September 8 launch, NASA is set to embark on its first asteroid sample return mission. Their deep space explorer, OSIRIS-REx, is the third spacecraft in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The other two include the wildly successful New Horizons mission to Pluto last year, and spacecraft Juno’s historic long-term orbit of Jupiter which began in August.
Over the next seven years, OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with near-Earth asteroid Bennu and hover over it while scanning its surface. Then, after more than a year, the spacecraft will finally swoop in, scoop up some soil, and return the batch to Earth. And to the welcoming arms of the scientists (see infographic timeline).
These scientists are counting on the 2- to 70-ounce sample to tell them more about how our solar system was formed. They hope that Bennu’s soil ...