Preparing for Asteroid Bennu: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Astromaterials Lab Opens Doors to Media

NASA OSIRIS REx Curation Team Rehearses Opening Asteroid Sample Canister

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx curation team rehearse the opening of the asteroid sample canister in the newly built OSIRIS-REx Curation lab at Johnson Space Center. Credit: NASA

Ahead of the first asteroid sample collected by the U.S. arriving on Earth in September, media are invited on Monday, July 24, to meet mission scientists and see NASA’s newly-built OSIRIS-REx Sample Curation Laboratory where the agency will study the sample at its Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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

OSIRIS REx Spacecraft Leaving Bennu Surface

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft leaving 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 capture still and moving imagery at the curation lab. Full interviews with subject matter experts will be available after the lab tour concludes.

Johnson houses the world’s largest collection of astromaterials from the solar system under one roof, including samples from asteroids, comets, 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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