A Seven Year Mission To Asteroid Bennu and Back


An Atlas V rocket successfully delivers NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to orbit.

Last month a large Atlas V rocket blasted off from Launch Complex 41 in at Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying the OSIRIX-REx spacecraft. This robotic spacecraft will attempt to land on Asteroid Bennu and return some of its soil to Earth.

Asteroid 101955 Bennu orbits the Sun near the Earth, and spans about 500-meters (1640 feet). The surface of Bennu is dark because it is covered with carbon. Bennu has about a 1 in 2500 chance of striking the Earth in the next few thousand years.

The exciting 2.5-minute video shows the Atlas V rocket being rolled out, prepared, and launched — complete with a clip of side-boosters separating. If things go according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will reach Bennu in 2018 and return samples to Earth in 2023. One science goal of OSIRIS-REx is to better determine whether ancient collisions between Earth and carbonaceous asteroids like Bennu provided Earth with a significant amount of the water and organic molecules necessary for the development of life.


OSIRIS-REx will collect a sample from the surface of the asteroid and return it to Earth for generations of scientists to study and analyze, making this the first American asteroid sample return mission and the largest sample returned from an extraterrestrial body since Apollo.

The OSIRIS-REx mission will help scientists investigate the origins of our solar system, how water and organic material traveled to Earth, and increase understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. In addition, the sample returned to Earth will further our understanding of water, organics and precious metals on asteroids, which could fuel future exploration missions.

United Launch Alliance (ULA), formed in December 2006, is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. United Launch Alliance provides spacecraft launch services to the United States government, which includes the Department of Defense and NASA, and other organizations.




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