In this month’s Asteroid Update video series, our host Scott Manley talks to Dr. Dante Lauretta, Asteroid Day Expert and Principal Investigator (PI) for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission. OSIRIS-REx launched this on September 8, 2016 from the Kennedy Space Center on a multi-year mission to study the asteroid Bennu.
Bennu is a particularly interesting asteroid, whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system –and essentially the origins of life. OSIRIS-REx’s mission will be to map the asteroid and return a sample. Bennu is also a hazardous asteroid so not only will the mission give researchers and scientists valuable knowledge of this asteroid’s physical and chemical composition, but also insight to its orbits and eventually how we can prepare to deflect dangerous asteroids.
Dante explains that throughout 2017, OSIRIS-REx will be in the ‘survey phase’, using hyperbolic flybys before the spacecraft will be ready to go in orbit around the asteroid in 2018. At that time, OSIRIS-REx will determine the best site for the five minute impact, designed to characterize the asteroid.
Dr. Lauretta characterizes OSIRIS-REx as a “vacuum cleaner in reverse” – and his story of how this spacecraft works and also how he came to name the mission – is all in the interview.