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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Will Land On an Asteroid To Bring Home Rocks and Dust

Imagine parallel parking a 15-passenger van into just two to three parking spaces surrounded by two-story boulders. On Oct. 20, a University of Arizona-led NASA mission 16 years in the making will attempt the astronomical equivalent more than 200 million miles away. A NASA mission called OSIRIS-REx will soon attempt to touch the surface of an asteroid and collect loose rubble. bobbied writes: OSIRIS-REx is the United States’ first asteroid sample return mission, aiming to collect and carry a pristine, unaltered sample from an asteroid back to Earth for scientific study. The spacecraft will attempt to touch the surface of the asteroid Bennu, which is hurtling through space at 63,000 miles per hour. If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will deploy an 11-foot-long robotic arm called TAGSAM — Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism — and spend about 10 seconds collecting at least two ounces of loose rubble from the asteroid. The spacecraft, monitored remotely by a team of scientists and engineers, will then stow away the sample and begin its return to Earth, scheduled for 2023. You can watch this sample collection “Touch-And-Go” maneuver Oct. 20 at 5 p.m. EDT/ 2 p.m. PDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website. As senior vice president for research and innovation at UArizona and a mechanical engineer with a long career in space systems engineering, I believe this milestone for OSIRIS-REx captures perfectly the spirit of research and innovation, the careful balance of problem-solving and perseverance, of obstacle and opportunity.

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