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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission: Preparing for Asteroid Sample Return
Final Test and Arrival Preparation
A team led by NASA is making significant strides in preparing for the historic arrival of the first U.S. asteroid sample on Earth, scheduled for September.
This sample, collected almost three years ago from asteroid Bennu, holds the promise of unravelling secrets about the early solar system and the origins of life on Earth.
A mockup of the mission’s sample capsule, named OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer), was successfully dropped from an aircraft as a part of the mission’s last major test before the actual capsule’s arrival.
A Glimpse into the Mission’s Success
The successful drop test of the OSIRIS-REx sample capsule mockup marks a crucial milestone in the mission’s final preparations. The capsule, containing a sample collected from asteroid Bennu’s surface, is expected to land on Earth on September 24th. This achievement will be a significant step in understanding the solar system’s formation over 4.5 billion years ago. It may offer insights into the origins of life on our planet.
Series of Rehearsals
Leading up to this critical phase, the OSIRIS-REx team conducted a series of rehearsals encompassing capsule recovery, spacecraft engineering operations, and sample curation procedures. These rehearsals aimed to ensure the team’s readiness for delivering and successfully handling the asteroid sample.
Countdown to Arrival
With less than a month left until the spacecraft’s arrival, the team is wrapping up their rehearsals and gearing up for the event. The spacecraft will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds before parachuting to the Utah Test and Training Range.
Significance of the Sample
The sample return capsule carries around 8.8 ounces of rocky material collected from asteroid Bennu’s surface in 2020. Scientists anticipate that studying this material over the coming years will provide crucial insights into the formation of both our planet and the solar system. Furthermore, it could shed light on the organic compounds that may have contributed to the emergence of life on Earth.
Live Coverage and Next Steps
NASA plans to broadcast the capsule’s landing live, beginning at 10 a.m. EDT (8 a.m. MDT), on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Once the capsule is located and prepared for transport, it will be sent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where it will undergo documentation, care, and distribution to scientists worldwide for analysis.
Collaborative Effort and Mission Details
The OSIRIS-REx mission involves collaboration between various entities, including NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Arizona, Lockheed Martin Space, KinetX Aerospace, CSA (the Canadian Space Agency), and JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). Managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the mission falls under NASA’s New Frontiers Program.
As the arrival date approaches, the OSIRIS-REx mission stands as a testament to scientific curiosity, meticulous planning, and international collaboration in the pursuit of unravelling the mysteries of our solar system’s history and the origins of life on Earth.