NASA Counting Down to Asteroid Mission Launch on Thursday Evening

OSIRIS-REx Credit: NASA

OSIRIS-REx
Credit: NASA

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is counting down to the launch of yet another ground breaking (in this case, literally) spacecraft, from Cape Canaveral. Flying aboard the ever-reliable ULA Atlas-V in its 411 configuration, the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer, or Osiris-REx, will journey to the Near Earth asteroid Bennu, where it will collect and return at least a 2.1 ounce sample by 2023.

It is NASA’s first attempt to directly sample an asteroid, and somewhat appropriately comes only days after the European Space Agency announced that it has discovered the final resting place of its Philae lander, which was lost as part of that agency’s Rosetta mission to study Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Liftoff is scheduled to take place tomorrow evening, September 8, at 7:05 PM EDT from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-41, at the beginning of a 34 day launch window. If all goes as planned, OSIRIS-REx  will take a yearlong trajectory around the Sun, swing back by Earth for a gravity assist, and then match orbits with Bennu in August, 2018. After nearly a year of studying the space rock, mission controllers will select a spot for a touch and go sample collection which will use pressurized nitrogen gas to blow particles of the loosely packed regolith towards the spacecraft’s sample collection box.

Once fully loaded, the spacecraft will make its exit during a March 2021 departure window, and return to Earth in September 2023, when the return capsule will separate from the craft itself, landing in the Utah desert.

In the SyFy Channel version of events, that is of course when the Zombie Apocalypse begins.

A mission fact sheet is here.

 

Posted in: Asteroids, NASA

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