The public is invited to a free talk called “OSIRIS-REx: The First U.S. Mission to Return Samples from an Asteroid to Earth” with Dr. Jason P. Dworkin in Dining Room A on the sixth floor of the Madison Building on Tuesday, May 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
OSIRIS-REx. Does it sound a bit like a dinosaur? That’s part of the fun scientists have in naming a space mission. Dante Lauretta, the deputy principle investigator of the team at one of NASA’s partners, the University of Arizona School of Earth and Space Exploration, happens to be a mythology buff. While thinking about the themes of the mission and jotting down some words, the name of an ancient Egyptian god, OSIRIS, emerged. In NASA-speak it stands for “Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security.“ Later they tacked on REx (Regolith Explorer) after a new and improved “king” version of the earlier model was designed. Regolith is rocky asteroid surface material, and, of course, Rex is Latin for king. ASU has been building an instrument called the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) that will analyze long-wavelength infrared light emitted from the asteroid to map the minerals on its surface.
The combination spacecraft-robotic arm will launch in September 2016 and reach the rocky asteroid Bennu in November 2019. As it turns out, Bennu is also an ancient Egyptian deity linked with the sun, creation, and rebirth. It is depicted as a large bird resembling a heron. In a “name the asteroid” contest, Mike Puzio, a nine-year-old from North Carolina, had the winning entry. He thought the spacecraft’s arm and solar panels looked like the neck and wings of the Bennu bird. OSIRIS-Rex will survey Bennu for up to 15 months, after which a target area will be selected by mission scientists and sampled, returning the dust, soil and rubble to Earth in 2023 to be shared by scientists all over the world.
Jason P. Dworkin, chief of the Astrochemistry Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, will be talking about OSIRIS, which is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers program for unmanned planetary missions. Since asteroids are the leftover debris from the formation of the solar system, scientists hope they can tell us about the history of our sun and its planets and give us clues to the origin of life and Earth’s oceans.
Individuals requiring accommodations for this event are requested to submit a request at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].
Update: I have added a link to Dante Lauretta faculty information and removed a link to the School of Earth and Space Exploration as ASU.