OSIRIS-REx – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Space Exploration Glossary

I. What is OSIRIS-REx?

OSIRIS-REx is a NASA spacecraft mission that stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. Launched in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx’s primary goal is to study and collect samples from an asteroid named Bennu. The spacecraft is equipped with a suite of scientific instruments to help achieve its mission objectives.

II. What is the purpose of the OSIRIS-REx mission?

The main purpose of the OSIRIS-REx mission is to study the asteroid Bennu and collect samples from its surface. By studying Bennu, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the early solar system and the origins of life on Earth. The samples collected from Bennu will provide valuable insights into the composition of asteroids and help scientists learn more about the formation and evolution of our solar system.

III. How does OSIRIS-REx collect samples from asteroid Bennu?

OSIRIS-REx uses a robotic arm called TAGSAM (Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism) to collect samples from the surface of Bennu. The spacecraft will approach the asteroid and extend its robotic arm to touch the surface for a few seconds. During this brief contact, the TAGSAM will release a burst of nitrogen gas, which will stir up regolith (loose surface material) from the asteroid’s surface. The spacecraft will then collect the regolith particles in a sample return capsule for analysis back on Earth.

IV. What are the scientific goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission?

The scientific goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission are to study the composition, structure, and history of the asteroid Bennu. By analyzing the samples collected from Bennu, scientists hope to learn more about the organic molecules present on the asteroid and how they may have contributed to the origins of life on Earth. Additionally, studying Bennu will help scientists better understand the potential hazards posed by near-Earth asteroids and improve our ability to predict and mitigate future asteroid impacts.

V. What are the potential implications of the OSIRIS-REx mission for space exploration?

The OSIRIS-REx mission has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of asteroids and their role in the formation of the solar system. By studying Bennu up close and analyzing samples from its surface, scientists will gain valuable insights into the processes that shaped our solar system billions of years ago. This knowledge will not only advance our understanding of planetary science but also inform future missions to asteroids and other celestial bodies.

VI. How does OSIRIS-REx plan to return the collected samples to Earth?

After collecting samples from the surface of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will begin its journey back to Earth. The spacecraft will perform a series of maneuvers to leave orbit around the asteroid and set a course for Earth. Upon reaching Earth, OSIRIS-REx will release the sample return capsule, which will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Utah desert. Scientists will then retrieve the capsule and transport it to a secure facility for analysis. This process will allow researchers to study the samples in detail and unlock the secrets of the asteroid Bennu.