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May 6, 2021

Media Availability and Livestream Information for OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Departure Event

  • What: Members of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx mission will be available for in-person interviews following the spacecraft's departure from asteroid Bennu and NASA's online broadcast "Farewell to Bennu."
  • When:
    • NASA's online broadcast will air Monday, May 10, at 1 p.m. (MST)
    • University of Arizona mission members will  be available in person to answer reporter questions immediately following the broadcast, at about 1:40 p.m. (MST).
  • Where:
    • Stream the broadcast on NASA Live
    • UArizona mission members will be available for interviews in the lobby of the Drake Building, 1415 N. 6th Ave. Parking will be available in front, with overflow parking along the sides of the building. Media who wish to attend must RSVP to Mikayla Mace Kelley,
  • Media Availability Participants:
    • Dante Lauretta: As mission principal investigator and a UArizona professor of planetary sciences, Lauretta can answer questions about all aspects of the mission, from its earliest stages through sample collection and analysis.
    • Carina Bennett: As a former senior image processing engineer and the project manager and software engineer for the Sample Analysis Micro Information System, Bennett can respond to questions about the asteroid Bennu, sample return and sample amounts.
    • Jessica Barnes: As an assistant professor of planetary sciences who studies extraterrestrial material, including moon samples, Barnes will be part of the team that analyzes the asteroid sample once it returns to Earth.

TUCSON, Ariz. – On May 10, the spacecraft of the University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx NASA mission will say farewell to asteroid Bennu after more than two years snapping photos, gathering data and snagging a sample from the asteroid's surface.

To celebrate the beginning of the return trip to Earth, NASA invites the public and the media to watch at 1 p.m. (MST). At approximately 1:16 p.m. (MST), the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will fire its main thrusters for seven minutes and start its long journey home with more than 60 grams of asteroid material in its Sample Return Capsule.

Following the NASA broadcast, University of Arizona mission members will be available to speak with media in the lobby of the Drake Building, 1415 N. 6th Ave.

UArizona planetary sciences professor Dante Lauretta is principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. It is the first NASA mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface and collect a sample to deliver back to Earth. Analysis of the sample could shed more light on the origins of the solar system and life on Earth. Studying Bennu can also tell scientists more about the likelihood that the asteroid will strike Earth late in the next century during one of its close approaches.

The OSIRIS-REx departure sequence is the mission's largest maneuver since the spacecraft arrived at Bennu in 2018. Thrusters have to change the spacecraft velocity by 266 meters per second, or 0.16 miles per second, for OSIRIS-REx's path to intersect Earth for a successful sample return. The sample is expected to arrive at the Utah Test and Training Range on Sept. 24, 2023, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. (MST).

There is no straight path back to Earth. Like a quarterback throwing a long pass to where a receiver will be in the future, OSIRIS-REx is traveling to where Earth will be in the future. The spacecraft will sling around the sun twice, covering 1.4 billion miles in over two-and-a-half years to catch up with Earth.

During NASA's departure broadcast, scientists will reveal new imagery from the mission's final flyover of Bennu and talk about the hair-raising moments of sample collection and how the team engineered its way out of problems that threatened the mission.

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 also bring back the largest sample collected by a NASA mission since the Apollo astronauts brought back moon rocks. Scientists, including those at the University of Arizona, will analyze the sample to learn about the formation of our solar system and the development of Earth as a habitable planet.

NASA will recover and transport the sample return capsule to the curation facility at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston. Johnson will manage the sample distribution to laboratories worldwide. NASA will retain 75% of the material for future generations to study with technologies not yet available today.

The University of Arizona 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.

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Media contacts:
Mikayla Mace Kelley
University Communications

Nancy Ramos

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 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.