OSIRIS-REx is a spacecraft that traveled five years to reach an asteroid named Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is now on its way back to Earth with asteroid samples of dust and rocks. The University of Arizona’s Dante Lauretta is a key member of the group leading the mission.
Lauretta said there is a specific reason as to why the asteroid “Bennu” was the chosen piece of the mission, “we chose it is because it’s a very rare kind of asteroid we call dark asteroids, they reflect a very small amount of the sunlight from their surface, which we think means they have a lot of carbon, and we’re particularly interested in the role these kinds of objects might have played in the origin of life.”
Lauretta, and other members of NASA, hope it will bring new information on the creation of our solar system.
The team has to be careful as the materials come back to earth, “…we have to time the release of that capsule very precisely. If it comes in too shallow, it’ll skip off the top of the atmosphere, kind of like skipping rocks. If it comes in too steep, the amount of heating will be enormous and the capsule will just be disintegrated upon entry,” Lauretta said.
There are concerns whether this spacecraft will turn to ruins after its mission but, “OSIRIS REx is a very capable spacecraft that did an amazing job mapping out value and ultimately collecting the sample right now, its primary mission is to bring those samples back to Earth, but only one component of the spacecraft actually comes through the atmosphere, what we call our ‘sample return capsule.’ The rest of the vehicle with its propulsion system its power system and most importantly its science instruments is still very capable,” Lauretta said.
The spacecraft is set to come back to earth in September of 2023, hopefully bringing new information about our solar system.