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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Astromaterials Laboratory opens its doors to the media

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Astromaterials Laboratory opens its doors to the media

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx management team practices opening an asteroid sample canister at the newly built OSIRIS-REx Curation Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. Credit: NASA

Ahead of the first asteroid sample collected by the United States arriving on Earth in September, the media was invited on Monday, July 24, to interview mission scientists and view NASA’s newly built OSIRIS-REx sample laboratory where the agency will study the sample in situ. Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Asteroid Bennu, target of the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) mission, is a carbonaceous asteroid whose impacts may record the earliest history of our solar system. The Bennu sample may contain the molecular precursors for the origin of life and Earth’s oceans, and studying it will also help scientists understand the formation of the planet.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departs the surface of Bennu

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departs the surface of asteroid Bennu after collecting a sample. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab/SVS

The media day will include opportunities to speak with subject matter experts and take still and moving photos at the Regulatory Lab. Full interviews with subject matter experts will be available after the lab tour is over.

Johnson houses the world’s largest collection of astronomical material from the solar system under one roof, including samples from asteroids and comets.[{” attribute=””>Mars, the Moon, Sun, and dust from other stars. Scientists use world-class laboratories to perform research on planetary materials and the space environment to investigate the origin and evolution of our solar system and beyond.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer) mission is an asteroid study and sample-return mission. Launched in 2016, the spacecraft rendezvoused with the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2018 to study its composition, geological properties, and to collect a sample.

The mission aims to bring back at least 60 grams of the asteroid’s surface material to Earth in 2023. This will help scientists understand more about the formation and evolution of the solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

The spacecraft has successfully collected the sample and is on its way back to Earth. It is expected to drop the sample capsule on September 24, which will parachute down into the Utah desert, where a team will be ready to recover it and transport it to a new lab built for the material at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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