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NASA begins building asteroid spacecraft

Posted on Thursday, 10 April, 2014 | Comment icon 8 comments

Concept image of the spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA / Goddard

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will visit a nearby asteroid, obtain samples and then return them to Earth.

The endeavor represents the first US mission to collect and return materials from an asteroid and is due to launch in the fall of 2016.

The spacecraft will spend two years traveling to Bennu, an asteroid discovered in 1999 that measures 493m across and which is believed to pose a potential impact threat to our planet in the future.

Five on-board instruments will conduct a detailed analysis of the object over the course of 12 months ending with the collection of several samples that will then be carried back to the Earth by 2023.

"Successfully passing mission CDR (Critical Design Review) is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us - building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window," said project manager Mike Donnelly.

The mission will aim to learn as much as possible about the threat posed by near-Earth asteroids as well as to understand the source of the organic materials that lead to the development of life on our planet.

Source: | Comments (8)

Tags: Asteroid

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by DieChecker on 11 April, 2014, 0:05
I thought for a minute that it was referring to taking an asteroid and turning it into a spacecraft.....
Comment icon #2 Posted by skookum on 11 April, 2014, 1:18
Now that would be cool. Asteroids could make excellent space ships or stations.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 April, 2014, 2:16
I thought someone might, I just wondered if anyone would by daft enough to admit it.
Comment icon #4 Posted by DieChecker on 11 April, 2014, 4:20
Daft.... I'm sometimes described as that. :innocent:
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer on 11 April, 2014, 11:33
OK - The spacecraft is going to survey the surface of the asteroid for a year then bring back a few 60 gm samples. Unless NASA has an AI we don't know about, I theorize, as I don't want to assume, that there will be some type of human control to the mission?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Calibeliever on 11 April, 2014, 16:11
Probably a bit of both. We're getting pretty succesful with remote missions that can act with some autonomy. Ground control will likely be at the stick though.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 11 April, 2014, 16:34
What's this WE? NASA has some sort of AI YOU don't know about. All unmanned spacecraft receive instructions from controllers on Earth, however, given the distances involved, a large degree of autonomy is also needed. Radio signals can take several minutes each way, so spacecraft simply can not be remotely controlled by an operator on Earth, by the time he/she sees a potential danger the spacecraft has already been destroyed several minutes earlier. Curiosity, the Mars rover, has software which allows it to look for obstacles and drive around them. If it can not do so then it stops... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by taniwha on 11 April, 2014, 20:29
This is an exciting time to be an asteroid! Yes, information is currently limited by the speed of light. When we look at the night sky we experience a time delay hallucination.

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