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Published on Sep 8, 2016
NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket assembled in Decatur, Ala. on September 08, 2016 at 5:30 PM
NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe is on the launch pad and poised for liftoff tonight on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket assembled in Decatur, Ala. The launch window opens at 6:05 p.m. CDT. Watch the launch in the window below.
OSIRIS-REx is a name that stands for all of the probe's missions. Here they are as explained by principal scientist Dante Lauretta:
Origins – Return an asteroid sample for laboratory analysis. "This really is what drives our program. We're going to asteroid Bennu because it's a time capsule from the earliest stages of solar system formation, back when our planetary system was spread across as dust grains in a swirling cloud around our growing protostar."
Spectral Interpretation – Provide direct observations for telescopic data of the entire asteroid population.
Resource Identification – Map the chemistry and mineralogy of a primitive, carbon-rich asteroid.
Security – Measure the Yarkovsky effect, in which the asteroid absorbs the energy in sunlight, then emits that energy in the form of heat. "That causes a small thrust on the asteroid, changing its trajectory over time," Lauretta explained Tuesday. A better understanding of this phenomenon could not only help scientists know more about Bennu, but could be applied to asteroids throughout our solar system.
Regolith Explorer – Document the loose blanket of gravel and dirt on the surface, known as regolith.
This is a seven-year roundtrip mission. The probe will reach the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in 2018 and return with samples in 2023.