In DepthPlanetary Science

NASA to launch asteroid-sampling mission

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Science  02 Sep 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6303, pp. 974-975
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6303.974

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Summary

On 8 September, NASA will launch the $1 billion Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission to sample an asteroid and return its dust to Earth. The voyage's target is Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid whose orbit closely coincides with Earth's. OSIRIS-REx will survey the asteroid for 2 years after it arrives in 2018, then tag Bennu for 5 seconds to retrieve its dust. Although it won't be the first spacecraft to return an asteroid sample, the scoop of grit OSIRIS-REx delivers in 2023 could reveal new insights into the unaltered building blocks of the solar system and the types of amino acids and other organic molecules that asteroid impacts delivered to an early Earth.