OSIRIS-REx returns to Earth with 250 Grams of Bennu Asteroid

Photo Credit: NASA

With the successful return of a 250 gram sample from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft after its mission to the carbonaceous asteroid 101955 Bennu, space exploration has made a massive stride toward the ultimate goal of understanding our origins.

The C-complex asteroid is relatively uncommon in the solar system because of its location on the outer limits of our asteroid belt, representing a more viable empirical research paradigm for us to ascertain a more comprehensive understanding of the universe as we know it. The mission is being managed and engineered by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, while the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory provides principal science operations for the Lockheed Martin Space Systems built spacecraft. The Regolith Explorer launched in 2016 from Cape Canaveral and traveled for a total of seven years. The cost of the OSIRIS-Rex has reached approximately $800 Mn, not including the Atlas V launch vehicle built by Lockheed which boasts a price tag of $183.5 Mn.

After the ships 4-billion mile journey and subsequent deposit of the asteroid sample by capsule  yesterday at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in the arid Utah desert, the mission will now continue under the new name OSIRIS-APEX. OSIRIS-APEX and the same team will reprise the discoveries of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at a second asteroid, Apophis. The OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will now use Earth’s gravity to put itself on a course to rendezvous with the asteroid to begin an 18-month campaign of investigation and discovery.

The next major launch for NASA is the NASA Psyche Mission on October 5 at 10:34 AM. This mission will set out to discover a mineral rich asteroid, 16 Psych, which boasts enough gold to make every person on Earth a billionaire.