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Sept. 22, 2020

Media Advisory: NASA to Provide Update on Agency's First Asteroid Sample Collection Attempt

  • What: Media availability with OSIRIS-REx mission leaders for update on the Oct. 20 sample collection attempt.
  • When: Thursday, Sept. 24, 12 p.m. (MT)
  • Where: The livestream is available here. To participate in the teleconference, media must send their name, affiliation and phone number to Lonnie Shekhtman no later than 10 a.m. (MT) Sept. 24.
  • Speakers:
    • Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
    • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate
    • Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division
    • Mike Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
    • Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin Space

NASA will hold a media teleconference to provide an update on the agency's first attempt to make contact with the surface of asteroid Bennu and collect a sample next month.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer spacecraft will travel to the asteroid's surface during its first sample collection attempt Oct. 20. Its sampling mechanism will touch Bennu's surface for several seconds, fire a charge of pressurized nitrogen to disturb the surface, and collect a sample before the spacecraft backs away.

Dante Lauretta, of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the mission's principal investigator, will provide background on the mission, the science of Bennu and what will happen with the sample once it is collected.

In response to rocky conditions discovered on the asteroid's surface when OSIRIS-REx began orbiting Bennu in 2018, the mission team has reduced the sample area to one-tenth of the area in the original plan. This means the spacecraft must target Bennu's surface with even greater accuracy.

A building-size boulder situated on Nightingale crater's eastern rim could pose a hazard to the spacecraft as it backs away from the asteroid after collecting the sample. The OSIRIS-REx team performed two rehearsal operations to prepare for these challenges and is ready.

The spacecraft is scheduled to begin the journey back to Earth next year, arriving with the sample in 2023.

Studying Bennu helps researchers learn more about the origins of our solar system, sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, and hazards and resources in near-Earth space. For more information on OSIRIS-Rex, visit https://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex and https://www.asteroidmission.org.

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Media contact:
Erin Morton
OSIRIS-REx
520-269-2493
morton@orex.lpl.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 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 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 65 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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