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Aug. 10, 2021

Media Advisory: Expert Available to Discuss Asteroid Bennu's Impact Probability

  • What: Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission, will participate in a NASA media teleconference announcing asteroid Bennu's updated impact probability. Lauretta will be available for a limited number of scheduled one-on-one Zoom interviews following the teleconference.
  • When:
    • NASA teleconference is Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 10 a.m. (PT).
    • Lauretta will be available for a limited number of scheduled Zoom interviews just after 11 a.m. (PT) and from 2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (PT).
  • Where:
    • To participate in NASA's teleconference, media must contact Rani Gran at rani.c.gran@nasa.gov by 9 a.m. (PT) on Wednesday, Aug. 11, for dial-in information. Audio of the teleconference will stream live at http://www.nasa.gov/live.
    • Journalists who would like to schedule a brief one-on-one interview with Lauretta following the teleconference must RSVP to Mikayla Mace Kelley at mikaylamace@arizona.edu. A limited number of slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

TUCSON, Ariz. – The near-Earth asteroid Bennu was the target of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx NASA mission, launched in 2016. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft rendezvoused with the asteroid to study and map it in unprecedented detail for two years before capturing a sample of its rocky surface in October 2020 and beginning its return trip home in May.

Now, the mission's science team is preparing to release new results related to a significant mission objective for the OSIRIS-REx mission. The second "S" in OSIRIS-REx stands for "security," and the team aims to better understand Bennu's orbit and predict how likely it is to strike Earth during one of its close approaches late in the next century.

Through measurement and detailed analysis of the asteroid's trajectory and the physical forces acting upon it, mission scientists have improved models of its future trajectory, allowing for highly accurate predictions about future encounters with Earth. Their predictions will be published in the journal Icarus on Wednesday.

NASA has scheduled a teleconference to announce the team's findings. Four mission experts, including OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and UArizona planetary sciences professor Dante Lauretta, will discuss their findings and answer questions from media. Other teleconference participants include Davide Farnocchia, study lead author and scientist with the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; and Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Immediately following the NASA teleconference, Lauretta will be available to speak with media one on one via scheduled Zoom meetings.

OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer – is the first NASA mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface and collect a sample to deliver back to Earth. Sample analysis could shed more light on the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx mission made history many times during its two-and-a-half years at the asteroid. Bennu is the smallest celestial object ever orbited by a human-built spacecraft. The spacecraft will bring back the largest sample collected by a NASA mission since the Apollo astronauts brought back moon rocks. Scientists, including those at UArizona, will analyze the sample to learn about the formation of the solar system and the development of Earth as a habitable planet.

UArizona leads the OSIRIS-REx science team and the mission's science observation planning and data processing. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, located in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

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Media contact:
Mikayla Mace Kelley
University Communications
520-621-1878
mikaylamace@arizona.edu

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 40 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 2019 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $734 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 66 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

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