First-Ever NASA Asteroid Sample Return Mission, OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Launches September 8th

First Posted: Sep 02, 2016 04:32 AM EDT

NASA will launch its first-ever asteroid mission on September 8, 2016, at 7:05 P.M. EDT. It aims to return samples from an asteroid for further study here on Earth.

The NASA's Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer or OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft aboard an Atlas V411 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida will be launched on September 8 to journey to a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu. It will investigate and collect samples of surface material to return to Earth in 2023 for further study. It will also examine how pressure from sunlight influences the path of this traveling asteroid. This delivers new insight into how the orbits of near-earth asteroids change over time, according to NASA.

01955 Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid, which is classified as a potentially hazardous object. It has a 1 in 2700 chance of colliding with Earth in the 22nd century. Bennu was found by the LINEAR Project on September 11, 1999. This asteroid has a mean diameter of approximately 492 meters (1,614 ft.). The scientists also theorize that Bennu holds clues to the origin of the solar system and the source of the water and organic molecules that may have made their way to Earth.

NASA is inviting the public and the media to celebrate the launch of OSIRIS-Rex sample return mission to an asteroid on Thursday, September 8 at 5:30 P.M. It is open to the public for free. It will be held at the NASA Goddard Visitor Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Before the historic mission launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the NASA scientists will discuss matters about the asteroid mission on September 8th from 6:00 A.M to 2:00 P.M. These include the reasons why NASA is going to this asteroid and what mysteries it might unlock about how life started on Earth and whether life could have started elsewhere in the solar system.

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