Sept. 1, 2023

Media advisory: OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta available for interviews in advance of asteroid sample return

  • What: Media availability with Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission
  • When: Sept. 8, 12-1:30 p.m. (PT)
  • Where: Gerard P. Kuiper Space Sciences Building, Room 536, or on Zoom
  • RSVP: Media interested in interviewing Lauretta in person or virtually must RSVP with their preferred interview method by Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 5 p.m. (PT) to Mikayla Kelley,

TUCSON, Ariz. – NASA's University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission – the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and deliver it to Earth – is about to reach its apex. On Sept. 24, the spacecraft will fly by Earth and release a sample return capsule containing an estimated 8.8 ounces of rocky material from asteroid Bennu above the Utah desert.

The event will mark the beginning of decades of new scientific exploration. Researchers will study the sample to learn about how our planet and solar system formed, as well as the origin of organics that may have led to life on Earth.

Mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a Regents Professor of Planetary Sciences at the UArizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, will lead the scientific effort. Lauretta will participate in the sample retrieval from the Utah desert and in an in-person NASA media event on Sept. 24.

For members of the media unable to travel for the NASA event, Lauretta will have extremely limited interview availability on Sept. 24. In anticipation of this, he will be available for pre-sample retrieval interviews on Sept. 8. Media can sign up for a 15-minute in-person or remote interview with Lauretta. Those interested must RSVP with their preferred interview method by 5 p.m. (PT) on Wednesday, Sept. 6, to Mikayla Kelley at Slots will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

More about the Sept. 24 sample capsule landing

  • NASA's live coverage of the capsule landing starts at 7 a.m. (PT) on Sept. 24. The capsule will enter Earth's atmosphere at 7:42 a.m. (PT). Coverage will air on NASA TV, the NASA app and the agency website.
  • NASA will host a post-landing briefing about 90 minutes after the sample capsule arrives that will also be livestreamed.
  • The date to register to attend in person has already passed.

Once the sample capsule arrives at the Utah Test and Training Range and packaged for travel, it will be flown to a temporary clean room on the nearby U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, where it will undergo initial processing and disassembly in preparation for its journey by aircraft to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. There, the sample will be documented, cared for and distributed for analysis to scientists worldwide.

The Sept. 24 event marks the end of a seven-year journey to explore asteroid Bennu and collect a sample from its surface. UArizona leads the $1 billion mission, with the university's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory serving as its science operations command center.

Subject matter experts available on Sept. 24 in Tucson

The following UArizona experts will be available for interviews in Tucson the day of sample return.  

  • Jessica Barnes, a Lunar and Planetary Laboratory assistant professor and lead scientist for the OSIRIS-REx Sample Elements and Isotopes Analysis Working Group
  • Mark Marley, director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

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Media contact:
Mikayla Kelley
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 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.