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Sept. 20, 2023

Media advisory: Children's Museum Tucson to host activities to celebrate the OSIRIS-REx mission's asteroid sample delivery

  • What: OSIRIS-REx Day: Free entry to the Children's Museum Tucson to celebrate the success of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission
  • When: Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Where: Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Ave., Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. – On Sept. 24, NASA's University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx will accomplish its mission: The spacecraft will fly by the Earth and jettison a capsule full of rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu into the Utah desert, where scientists will be eagerly awaiting. The day will mark the end of the spacecraft's seven-year journey to Bennu and back — and the start of the sample analysis phase of the mission.

Dante Lauretta, the mission's principal investigator and a UArizona Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, leads the OSIRIS-REx science team as well as the mission's science observation planning and data processing. He will be in the Utah desert as part of the team that retrieves the sample when it finally lands on Earth.

To celebrate locally, the university's Arizona Astrobiology Center has planned a day of fun and learning for elementary school-age children at the Children's Museum Tucson. Admission is free all day, but activities will run from 1 to 5 p.m.

The new center, led by Lauretta, will open this fall. The goal of the newly approved interdisciplinary center is to connect researchers, students and community members to engage with astrobiology – the study of the origins, nature, distribution and future of life in the universe.

"The goal is to launch this new center with the arrival of the Bennu sample and to gather the many strengths we have as a community and university to explore these foundational questions," said Corey Knox, deputy director of the center.

OSIRIS-REx Day at the museum will include video footage of the capsule landing and retrieval from earlier in the day, in addition to space art and science activities. Children can also meet mission scientists and win posters and other goodies.

They can also imagine and create their own planet, asteroid or star to add to the museum's temporary Tucson Space Exploration Mural.

"We hope visitors are inspired," Knox said. "We'd like them to imagine they have a magic spaceship that can take them on an incredible journey through space, for example. We want them to use their creativity to color and bring to life the planet or asteroid they'd love to explore and draw themselves in the spaceship, as if they were taking an extraordinary cosmic adventure."

One activity Knox is especially excited about is called Seeds of Life. Visitors can collect their own sample from a replica of the Nightingale sample site on Bennu, do experiments on the rocks and dust, and then take their work home.

OSIRIS-REx launched on Sept. 8, 2016, aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft arrived on Dec. 3, 2018, at the target asteroid Bennu, where it conducted detailed surveys and analyses of the asteroid's surface, shape, composition and geology to select the best sampling site. On Oct. 20, 2020, OSIRIS-REx successfully touched the asteroid to collect a sample of surface material, called regolith. After collecting the sample, the spacecraft stowed the regolith in a sample return capsule to protect it during the return journey.  

Having bid farewell to Bennu on May 10, 2021, OSIRIS-REx is nearly home. The spacecraft will drop the sample capsule on Sept. 24, 2023, while the main spacecraft journeys on to another asteroid, Apophis, for a 2029 rendezvous.

About a quarter of the sample, which is estimated to be about a cupful, will go to the UArizona-led science team. Much of the rest will be preserved for future science.

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Media contacts:
Teresa Truelsen
Children's Museum Tucson

University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2021 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $824 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 71 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.


Astronomy OSIRIS-REx Space