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: NASA.gov | Comments (8)