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OSIRIS-REx mission graphic

Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer

Phase: Development

Launch Date: September 2016

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Program(s):New Frontiers

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NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. After traveling three years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2018. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter or roughly the size of six football fields. The asteroid, little altered over time, is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system's infancy. The asteroid also is likely rich in carbon, a key element in the organic molecules necessary for life. Organic molecules have been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating some of life's ingredients can be created in space; scientists want to see if they also are present on RQ36. Dr. Dante Lauretta, from the University of Arizona, is OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project. Follow OSIRIS-Rex on: