OSIRIS-REx: Asteroid 1999 RQ36 (Bennu)

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OSIRIS-REx: Asteroid 1999 RQ36 (Bennu)

Postby bystander » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:48 pm

Proposed Mission Would Return Sample from Asteroid "Time Capsule"
NASA GFSC | OSIRIS-REx | 2010 Mar 11
Meet asteroid 1999 RQ36, a chunk of rock and dust about 1,900 feet in diameter that could tell us how the solar system was born, and perhaps, shed light on how life began. It also might hit us someday.

"This asteroid is a time capsule from before the birth of our solar system," said Bill Cutlip of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., one of the leaders of Goddard's effort to propose a mission called OSIRIS-REx that will return a sample from RQ36.

http://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/ORIRIS.htm

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Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby bystander » Tue Jul 27, 2010 8:16 pm

Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182
Space.com | Science | 27 July 2010
A large asteroid in space that has a remote chance of slamming into the Earth would be most likely hit in 2182, if it crashed into our planet at all, a new study suggests.

The asteroid, called 1999 RQ36, has about a 1-in-1,000 chance of actually hitting the Earth, but half of that risk corresponds to potential impacts in the year 2182, said study co-author María Eugenia Sansaturio of the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain.

Sansaturio and her colleagues used mathematical models to determine the risk of asteroid 1999 RQ36 impacting the Earth through the year 2200. They found two potential opportunities for the asteroid to hit Earth in 2182.

The research is detailed in the science journal Icarus.

The asteroid was discovered in 1999 and is about 1,837 feet (560 meters) across. A space rock this size could cause widespread devastation at an impact site in the remote chance that it hit Earth, according to a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have tracked asteroid 1999 RQ36's orbit through 290 optical observations and 13 radar surveys, but there is still some uncertainty because of the gentle push it receives from the so-called Yarkovsky effect, researchers said.

Potentially hazardous asteroid might collide with the Earth in 2182
PhysOrg | Space Exploration | 27 July 2010
The potentially hazardous asteroid, (101955) 1999 RQ36, has a one-in-a-thousand chance of impacting the Earth, and more than half of this probability indicates that this could happen in the year 2182, based on a global study in which Spanish researchers have been involved. Knowing this fact may help design in advance mechanisms aimed at deviating the asteroid's path.

"The total impact probability of asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' can be estimated in 0.00092 -approximately one-in-a-thousand chance-, but what is most surprising is that over half of this chance (0.00054) corresponds to 2182," explains to SINC María Eugenia Sansaturio, co-author of the study and researcher of Universidad de Valladolid (UVA). The research also involved scientists from the University of Pisa (Italy), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA) and INAF-IASF-Rome (Italy).

Scientists have estimated and monitored the potential impacts for this asteroid through 2200 by means of two mathematical models (Monte Carlo Method and line of variations sampling). Thus, the so called Virtual Impactors (VIs) have been searched. VIs are sets of statistical uncertainty leading to collisions with the Earth on different dates of the XXII century. Two VIs appear in 2182 with more than half the chance of impact.

Asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' is part of the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA), which have the possibility of hitting the Earth due to the closeness of their orbits, and they may cause damages. This PHA was discovered in 1999 and has around 560 meters in diameter.

Future Hazard: 1-in-1,000 Chance of Asteroid Impact in 2182
Discovery News | Space | 27 July 2010
This isn't an urgent call to arms, but it's certainly a future date to consider. In the year 2182 -- 172 years time -- there's the possibility that we might be hit by an asteroid with potential to cause some significant global turmoil. This long-distance forecast could help mankind determine whether asteroid deflection techniques are warranted, especially when given nearly two centuries of lead time.

SLIDE SHOW: Top 10 Ways to Stop an Asteroid

The not-so-romantically named (101955) 1999 RQ36 -- discovered in 1999 -- measures approximately 510 meters in diameter and is classified as an Apollo asteroid. Apollo asteroids pose a threat to our planet as they routinely cross Earth's orbit.

With a one-in-a-thousand chance of 1999 RQ36 hitting Earth -- with half of this probability indicating a 2182 impact -- the threat might not sound too acute.

But compare this with the panic that ensued with the discovery of 99942 Apophis (2004 MN4) in 2004. Initially, it was thought there was a 1-in-233 chance of Apophis hitting us in 2029. This estimate was alarming; it was the fist time an asteroid had been promoted to "Level 4" on the Torino Scale -- a near-Earth object (NEO) impact hazard categorization method.

After further observations, the threat of an Apophis impact was lowered, and now the chance of the 270 meter space rock hitting us in 2029 is zero. The probability of impact during the next fly-by, in 2036, has recently been downgraded to a 1-in-250,000, and a third pass in 2068 has a tiny one-in-three million chance.

SLIDE SHOW: The top 10 near-Earth objects (NEOs) as selected by the Discovery News team.

Despite these shrinking odds, Apophis remains "the" doomsday asteroid in the public mindset -- a situation that certainly wasn't helped by the initial 1-in-233 odds and subsequent media frenzy.

Now we have 1999 RQ36, a bigger "potentially hazardous" asteroid, with a higher one-in-a-thousand chance of striking Earth in 2182.

Long term impact risk for (101955) 1999 RQ36
Proposed Mission Would Return Sample from Asteroid "Time Capsule"
NASA GSFC | 17 March 2010
Meet asteroid 1999 RQ36, a chunk of rock and dust about 1,900 feet in diameter that could tell us how the solar system was born, and perhaps, shed light on how life began. It also might hit us someday.

"This asteroid is a time capsule from before the birth of our solar system," said Bill Cutlip of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., one of the leaders of Goddard's effort to propose a mission called OSIRIS-REx that will return a sample from RQ36.

Proposed Mission Will Return Sample from Near-Earth Object
NASA GSFC | 09 March 2007
A menacing lump of rock and dust in space called 101955 (1999 RQ36) would barely be noticed except for two crucial facts: First, "It's a treasure trove of organic material, so it holds clues to how Earth formed and life got started," said Joseph Nuth of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Second, it regularly crosses Earth's orbit, so it might impact us someday.

Nuth is Project Scientist for the proposed OSIRIS mission, which will "return a pristine sample of the scientifically priceless asteroid RQ36 to Earth for in-depth study," said University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) Director Michael Drake, Principal Investigator for the proposed mission. The mission will be the first to return a sample of an asteroid to Earth. NASA Goddard is managing the project. Lockheed Martin is building the flight system, the sampling mechanism, and the sample return capsule. Lockheed Martin is also performing spacecraft operation.

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby neufer » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:10 pm

http://www.planetary.org/blog/article/00002602/ wrote:
New crater found in LROC image from the Moon
Jul. 27, 2010 | By Emily Lakdawalla

<<This news is no surprise, but I think it's the first such discovery I've heard of: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) team has identified a new crater on the Moon, one that wasn't there when Apollo 15 flew over, and which doesn't correspond to any known human artifact impact site. Therefore it's a fresh crater that's formed in the last 38 years. And since the comparison slide they posted with this item has a filename including the string "candidate3," I'm sure there are others yet to be announced!

Comparisons of images from the Apollo Panoramic Camera and the LROC Narrow Angle Camera are revealing impact craters that have formed within the past 38 years. The Apollo image (AS15-9527) was taken in August 1971 with the sun 64° above the horizon. The LROC image (M108971316L) was taken September 30, 2009 when the sun was 72° above the horizon. Images taken under similar lighting conditions like these are the most useful for identifying and comparing surface features. Credit: NASA / GSFC / ASU
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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby Dankls » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:50 pm

Despite scanning through the many articles regarding this asteroid, I have not seen the actual date RQ36 was discovered or who the original discoverer was, (I know it was discovered in 1999, but that's it). Any help, please?

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby bystander » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:20 pm

Dankls wrote:Despite scanning through the many articles regarding this asteroid, I have not seen the actual date RQ36 was discovered or who the original discoverer was, (I know it was discovered in 1999, but that's it). Any help, please?

Wikipedia wrote:(101955) 1999 RQ36 is the minor planet designation of an Apollo asteroid discovered by LINEAR in 1999 (Sept 11). It has a mean diameter of approximately 560 meters, and has been observed extensively with the Arecibo Observatory Planetary Radar and the Goldstone Deep Space Network.

List Of Apollo Minor Planets

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NGeo: NASA to Visit Asteroid Predicted to Hit Earth?

Postby bystander » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:02 pm

NASA to Visit Asteroid Predicted to Hit Earth?
National Geographic | Daily News | 06 Aug 2010
There's a mountain-size asteroid on a potential collision course with Earth, and NASA has plans to pay it a visit.

The asteroid 1999 RQ36 made headlines last week with the announcement that the space rock could hit our planet in 2182. But a handful of scientists have had their eyes on this asteroid since 2007, planning a sample-return mission designed to help us better predict—and avoid—impact hazards.

The mission, called OSIRIS-Rex (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer), is one of two finalists in the current competition for funding under NASA's New Frontiers program, up against a proposed mission to land on Venus. The selected mission will be announced in summer 2011.

If OSIRIS-Rex gets the green light, the spacecraft will launch in 2016 with the goal of mapping and bringing back pieces of the asteroid.

The team wants to go to RQ36 specifically because it's thought to be rich in material that's remained unchanged since the early days of the solar system—and because the asteroid's orbit makes the space rock easy to reach.

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby Ann » Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:21 am

There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

Hmmm. I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a perhaps 1-in-25 chance of an asteroid or comet hitting another planetary body in our solar system, perhaps Mars or Phobos. I hoped it would hit, because it would have been interesting if astronomers had been able to analyse the plume of the impact.

So, did the thing hit? No. A big fat no. And possible observers on Mars waiting to see the impact as 1999 RQ36 hits us in 2182 are going to be equally disappointed. You bet!

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby neufer » Sat Aug 07, 2010 9:44 am

Ann wrote:There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

Hmmm. I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a perhaps 1-in-25 chance of an asteroid or comet hitting another planetary body in our solar system, perhaps Mars or Phobos. I hoped it would hit, because it would have been interesting if astronomers had been able to analyse the plume of the impact. So, did the thing hit? No. A big fat no. And possible observers on Mars waiting to see the impact as 1999 RQ36 hits us in 2182 are going to be equally disappointed. You bet!

How sad. :cry:
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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby Beyond » Sat Aug 07, 2010 9:34 pm

neufer wrote:
Ann wrote:There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

Hmmm. I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a perhaps 1-in-25 chance of an asteroid or comet hitting another planetary body in our solar system, perhaps Mars or Phobos. I hoped it would hit, because it would have been interesting if astronomers had been able to analyse the plume of the impact. So, did the thing hit? No. A big fat no. And possible observers on Mars waiting to see the impact as 1999 RQ36 hits us in 2182 are going to be equally disappointed. You bet!

How sad. :cry:


Neufer, look on the positive side. At least there won't be too many that will be disappointed :!:
To find the Truth, you must go Beyond.

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby swainy » Sat Aug 07, 2010 10:53 pm

Ann wrote:There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

Hmmm. I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a perhaps 1-in-25 chance of an asteroid or comet hitting another planetary body in our solar system, perhaps Mars or Phobos. I hoped it would hit, because it would have been interesting if astronomers had been able to analyse the plume of the impact.

So, did the thing hit? No. A big fat no. And possible observers on Mars waiting to see the impact as 1999 RQ36 hits us in 2182 are going to be equally disappointed. You bet!

Ann


Nobody knows what on its way! Anything could happen anytime now! Those grains of dust are nearly invisible. And there are millions of them. Check this out :

http://www.universetoday.com/44561/surp ... zed-earth/

tc

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby Chris Peterson » Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:01 am

Ann wrote:There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

No, not really. The way it works is that when an asteroid like this is first identified, the orbital solution is poor. There aren't enough points, far enough apart in space and time, to generate good elements. There is a sort of cone of uncertainty that crosses a broad stretch of Earth's orbit, and that's where the 0.1% impact chance comes from. As more points are collected, the uncertainty gets smaller, and therefore the point where the Earth's orbit will be crossed gets better defined. In almost all cases (all actual cases) the result is that the impact probability gets smaller and smaller, until it becomes zero. It is virtually certain that the same will happen here.

Of course, the press just loves these kinds of stories, and jumps all over them. But the reporting is seldom very good.
Chris

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby bystander » Sun Aug 08, 2010 3:16 am

It's kind of strange, when I originally posted the story, it received little attention. Then I post a follow-up story about NASA wanting to go to this asteroid, and all anyone sees is the 0.1% chance it might hit Earth. It's not just the fault of the press, it's also the people who read the news.

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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby Beyond » Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:18 am

bystander wrote:It's kind of strange, when I originally posted the story, it received little attention. Then I post a follow-up story about NASA wanting to go to this asteroid, and all anyone sees is the 0.1% chance it might hit Earth. It's not just the fault of the press, it's also the people who read the news.


There ya go bystander, you've just found out that most of us either can't or don't bother to read, until something clicks and then there is a posting frenzy. People are STRANGE :!:
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OSIRIS-REx: NASA Mission to Asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2016

Postby bystander » Mon May 30, 2011 3:47 am

NASA to Launch New Science Mission to Asteroid in 2016
NASA OSIRIS-REx Mission Announcement | 2011 May 25
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

"This is a critical step in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama to extend our reach beyond low-Earth orbit and explore into deep space," said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. "It’s robotic missions like these that will pave the way for future human space missions to an asteroid and other deep space destinations."

NASA selected OSIRIS-REx after reviewing three concept study reports for new scientific missions, which also included a sample return mission from the far side of the Moon and a mission to the surface of Venus.

Asteroids are leftovers formed from the cloud of gas and dust -- the solar nebula -- that collapsed to form our sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years ago. As such, they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can tell us about the conditions of our solar system's birth.

After traveling four years, OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in 2020. Once within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft will begin six months of comprehensive surface mapping. The science team then will pick a location from where the spacecraft's arm will take a sample. The spacecraft gradually will move closer to the site, and the arm will extend to collect more than two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. The mission, excluding the launch vehicle, is expected to cost approximately $800 million.

The sample will be stored in a capsule that will land at Utah's Test and Training Range in 2023. The capsule's design will be similar to that used by NASA's Stardust spacecraft, which returned the world's first comet particles from comet Wild 2 in 2006. The OSIRIS-REx sample capsule will be taken to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The material will be removed and delivered to a dedicated research facility following stringent planetary protection protocol. Precise analysis will be performed that cannot be duplicated by spacecraft-based instruments.

RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter or roughly the size of five football fields. The asteroid, little altered over time, is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system's infancy. The asteroid also is likely rich in carbon, a key element in the organic molecules necessary for life. Organic molecules have been found in meteorite and comet samples, indicating some of life's ingredients can be created in space. Scientists want to see if they also are present on RQ36.

"This asteroid is a time capsule from the birth of our solar system and ushers in a new era of planetary exploration," said Jim Green, director, NASA's Planetary Science Division in Washington. "The knowledge from the mission also will help us to develop methods to better track the orbits of asteroids."

The mission will accurately measure the "Yarkovsky effect" for the first time. The effect is a small push caused by the sun on an asteroid, as it absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat. The small push adds up over time, but it is uneven due to an asteroid's shape, wobble, surface composition and rotation. For scientists to predict an Earth-approaching asteroid's path, they must understand how the effect will change its orbit. OSIRIS-REx will help refine RQ36's orbit to ascertain its trajectory and devise future strategies to mitigate possible Earth impacts from celestial objects.

Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the mission's principal investigator. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will provide overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver will build the spacecraft. The OSIRIS-REx payload includes instruments from the University of Arizona, Goddard, Arizona State University in Tempe and the Canadian Space Agency. NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., the Langley Research Center in Hampton Va., and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., also are involved. The science team is composed of numerous researchers from universities, private and government agencies.

This is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. The first, New Horizons, was launched in 2006. It will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in July 2015, then target another Kuiper Belt object for study. The second mission, Juno, will launch in August to become the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter from pole to pole and study the giant planet's atmosphere and interior. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

NASA Selects UA-Led Mission to Collect Sample From Asteroid
University of Arizona | 2011 May 25
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will orbit and explore asteroid 1999 RQ36 for more than a year before closing in and collecting a sample of pristine organic material that may have seeded Earth with the building blocks that led to life.

NASA has selected the University of Arizona to lead a sample-return mission to an asteroid. The team is led by Michael Drake, director of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. will manage the mission for NASA. Lockheed Martin will build the spacecraft.

The OSIRIS-REx mission is budgeted for approximately $800 million, excluding the launch vehicle.

The target asteroid – named 1999 RQ36 after the year it was discovered – measures 575 meters (one-third of a mile) in diameter. 1999 RQ36 is a time capsule from the early solar system rich with organic compounds that may have seeded life on Earth.

"OSIRIS-REx will explore our past and help determine our destiny," said Drake. "It will return samples of pristine organic material that scientists think might have seeded the sterile early Earth with the building blocks that led to life. Such samples do not currently exist on Earth. OSIRIS-REx will also provide the knowledge that will guide humanity in deflecting any future asteroid that could collide with Earth, allowing humanity to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs."

OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.

Scheduled for launch in 2016, the OSIRIS-REx mission will return the first samples ever taken from a special type of asteroid holding clues to the origin of the solar system and likely organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth.

OSIRIS-REx also will investigate an object potentially hazardous to humanity. 1999 RQ36 has a one-in-1,800 chance of impacting the Earth in the year 2182.

Spending more than a year exploring 1999 RQ36 before acquiring samples, OSIRIS-REx will provide geologic context essential to expanding our understanding of the asteroid-comet continuum. The mission will provide near-live coverage of 1999 RQ36 operations and sample return to Earth. Samples will return to Earth in the year 2023.

The return to Earth of pristine samples with known geologic context will enable precise analyses that cannot be duplicated by spacecraft-based instruments. Pristine carbonaceous materials have never before been analyzed in laboratories on Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx instrument suite will include: the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) by the University of Arizona; the OSIRIS REx Visible-Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) instrument by NASA Goddard; the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) by Arizona State University; and the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) by the Canadian Space Agency.

The team includes the University of Arizona, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Lockheed Martin, Arizona State University, KinetX, the Canadian Space Agency, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Langley Research Center, along with science team members from across academia.

NASA New Frontiers is a program to explore the solar system with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions that will conduct high-quality, focused scientific investigations designed to enhance our understanding of the solar system.

"OSIRIS-REx will usher in a new era of planetary exploration," said Dante Lauretta, the mission's deputy principal investigator and an associate professor at the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. "For the first time in space-exploration history, a mission will travel to, and return pristine samples of a carbonaceous asteroid with known geologic context. Such samples are critical to understanding the origin of the solar system, Earth, and life."

"OSIRIS-REx will have an extraordinary impact on the University of Arizona and our entire state," said UA President Robert N. Shelton. "For decades, our Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has made immeasurable contributions to our knowledge of the universe. This mission will continue and advance that tradition, with unique opportunities for our students and researchers."

Extensive characterization by the Arecibo Planetary Radar System, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and ground-based telescopes in Arizona and elsewhere have resulted in exceptional knowledge about the asteroid. 1999 RQ36 orbits the sun every 1.2 years, crossing the Earth's orbit every September. Its shape and rotation rate are well known, allowing OSIRIS-REx to make a safe, albeit short, touchdown.

"Our spacecraft will sneak up to RQ36 over the course of weeks," Lauretta said. "Once the two objects are traveling in sync, OSIRIS-REx will extend its sample collector, touch the surface for five seconds, collect well over 60 grams of sample, and get out of there."

Using an injection of ultra pure nitrogen, the OSIRIS-REx sample-collecting device will stir up dirt and small gravel to be captured and sealed for return to Earth. The samples are returned to the surface of the Earth using hardware and procedures successfully demonstrated on the Stardust mission, which returned samples from comet Wild 2 in 2006.

UA planetary science professor William Boynton is the mission instrumentation scientist, and Peter Smith, a professor in the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and principal investigator on the Phoenix Mars Mission, is the instrument scientist for the three on-board cameras. Heather Enos, project manager for the TEGA instrument on Phoenix, serves as the project planning and control officer. Chris Shinohara, science operations manager for the Phoenix Mission, will perform a similar role for OSIRIS-REx.

All mission science operations will be performed on the UA campus. Anna Spitz from the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center leads the Education and Public Outreach program. In addition to outstanding science and educational opportunities, OSIRIS-REx will provide a significant boost to the Arizona economy; approximately $200 million will be spent in Tucson and across Arizona.

NASA Aims to Grab Asteroid Dirt in 2020
Science Insider | Ricard A Kerr | 2011 May 25
OSIRIS_Cover_Image.jpg
Today NASA announced the next medium-class science mission to explore the solar system. The winner of a three-way competition is a mouthful: Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). It is a spacecraft that would scoop as much as 2 kilograms of rocky soil off a 600-meter-diameter asteroid in 2020 and return the sample to the Utah desert in 2023 for laboratory analysis. While strictly speaking a science mission to better understand the nature and origins of a primitive solar system building block, OSIRIS-REx dovetails nicely with President Barack Obama's plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025.

Costing roughly $1 billion, OSIRIS-Rex would launch in 2016 and spend 6 months mapping asteroid 1999 RQ36. Living up to all the ambitions of its official name, OSIRIS-REx would explore the origins of asteroids and thus the solar system itself, connect spectral colors observable from Earth to specific minerals on the asteroid, identify potential resources such as water for rocket fuel, help evaluate the threat of asteroids to Earth, and return some regolith (asteroid soil) for detailed analysis.

Two fields of planetary science took serious hits with today's announcement of the competition results.

A mission to explore the surface and atmospheric geochemistry of Venus was the best hope of U.S. scientists wishing to return to Earth's sister planet for the first time in decades. And a mission to return a sample from the moon's largest impact crater would have been some comfort to lunar scientists still smarting from Obama's decision to redirect NASA's crewed space exploration from the moon to near-Earth asteroids.

Rendezvous with an asteroid: ASU to build mineral survey instrument
Arizona State University | 2011 May 26
A newly announced NASA mission to collect a sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth will include an instrument built at Arizona State University's School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE). The ASU instrument will analyze long-wavelength infrared light emitted from the asteroid to map the minerals on its surface. The device is a modified version of the highly successful miniature infrared spectrometers carried on Spirit and Opportunity, NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers.

The new asteroid sample-return mission is called OSIRIS-REx, an acronym standing for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, and Regolith Explorer. The principal investigator for the mission is Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and the mission is part of NASA's New Frontiers program.

The mission's goals are to return a sample of rocks, soil, and dust from a pristine carbonaceous asteroid, map the asteroid's global properties down to submillimeter scales, characterize this class of asteroid for comparison with meteorites, and measure a subtle effect of sunlight that can alter the orbits of asteroids.

"The OSIRIS-REx mission is an important milestone for planetary science in the state of Arizona," says Kip Hodges, director of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration. "I am very excited at the prospects of building closer research collaborations with our friends and colleagues at the University of Arizona."

The instrument to be built at ASU is the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer, or OTES for short. It will be the first complex electro-optical instrument for spaceflight to be built at ASU.

A first for ASU

"In the past, each of the five instruments we’ve built for NASA were built at an aerospace company in California," says Philip Christensen, instrument scientist for OTES. He is Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "For the first time, a piece of complicated space hardware will be built on the ASU campus."

Christensen adds, "This is something we've been working toward for 15 years. It's is a major step forward for ASU — I can count on one hand the number of universities that can do this."

Greg Mehall is Project Engineer for OTES at ASU and has overseen the technical development of several previous ASU flight instruments. "We've worked hard over the past few years to create the infrastructure at ASU necessary to support such an endeavor," he says. "We recently developed two prototype flight instruments based on the Mars rover infrared spectrometers. They're representative prototypes for OTES."

The instrument also fits into a bigger picture at ASU. Hodges explains, "OTES demonstrates that SESE is now ready not just to operate instruments in space from the ASU campus, but to fabricate space-ready hardware in-house." In many ways, he says, "OTES is proof of the promise of SESE, an academic unit designed to integrate science and engineering research and education. We are very fortunate to work at a university that supports such a groundbreaking enterprise."

OTES will be built in cleanroom facilities in the new Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building (ISTB) 4, currently being constructed on the Tempe campus. "ISTB-4 is a remarkable building that will not only support advanced research by SESE and other academic and research units, but will also serve as a public showcase for scientific exploration," Hodges notes. "The OTES fabrication facility will be on the first floor of ISTB-4, in space designed for public viewing through high-bay windows. It will be fantastic to be able to use this state-of-the-art laboratory as a teaching tool." ...

UCF Scientist to Chase Down Asteroid for Historic Mission
University of Central Florida | 2011 May 26
One of the world’s leading planetary scientists is chasing down a nearby asteroid to help retrieve the first-ever sample from one in orbit.

Humberto Campins, a University of Central Florida professor who discovered water ice on two different asteroids last year, has just gotten the go-ahead for the NASA-sponsored OSIRIS-REx mission.

The mission is a first-of-its-kind. The flight to the asteroid will pose challenges because asteroids have unusual gravity fields and can rotate much quicker than planets. Navigating the space vehicle to land on this type of asteroid – millions of miles away from Earth – and scoop up a sample of “primitive” space rock also will be a first for the team.

While Campins is leaving the navigation to others on the team, he will work with lead investigator Michael Drake from the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona on choosing the best spot on the asteroid for obtaining the sample.

“It could hold very important clues about how the Earth and other planets in our solar system formed and evolved,” Campins said from the Paris Observatory in France, where he is conducting research with European colleagues.

Meteorites, or asteroid fragments, that hit the ground can lose more than 99 percent of their mass. However, that 99 percent is likely to contain the most interesting information about Earth’s water and organic molecules, Campins said.

“The asteroid fragments we retrieve will be pristine and not modified during atmospheric entry,” he said. “This is as exciting as it gets.”

The team had eagerly been waiting to see if NASA would select their project from a list of three finalists for a slot in the space agency’s New Frontiers Missions. The mission is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, a science-driven program aimed at characterizing and understanding the bodies that constitute the solar system. The goal is to “illuminate the origin, evolution, and current state of the solar system.”

The non-manned mission could launch as early as 2016.

It is expected to cost approximately $800 million, which includes funds to design the instrument that will lasso the sample and bring it back to earth.

The money also will cover the cost to circle and analyze the asteroid for a year with an array of special instruments to help select the optimal sampling spot. That’s where a mechanism will scoop up the sample and place it in a capsule. That capsule later will come back to Earth, splashing in an ocean with the help of a parachute.

“The even harder work will begin once we have our sample,” Campins said. “We will spend at least two years going over every piece of information we gather.”

The target, asteroid 1999 RQ36, is about 600 yards in diameter and comes relatively close to Earth. The asteroid has even been designated as “potentially hazardous” because there is a 1 in 1,800 chance that it could slam into Earth in 2170.

“Sure, what we learn from this mission could help us should we need to try to avert an unlikely hit in the future,” Campins said. “But the real prize is the unique and pristine material we will find and the new insights we will gain.”

Primitive asteroids are remnants of the solar nebula, from which the Sun and the planets in our solar system formed, some 4.5 billion years ago.

CU-Boulder to participate in NASA mission to land on an asteroid
University of Colorado, Boulder | 2011 May 26
A University of Colorado Boulder team will be part of a mission selected yesterday by NASA to launch a spacecraft to an asteroid and pluck samples from its surface to better understand the formation of the solar system and perhaps even the first inklings of life.

The mission, called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, is being led by the University of Arizona and is slated to approach, map and collect samples from a primitive asteroid for return to Earth. Professor Daniel Scheeres of CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department is the radio science team leader on the OSIRIS-REx mission, which is expected to bring more than $3 million in research funding to CU-Boulder over the mission lifetime.

The NASA selection of the asteroid mission as part of the New Frontiers Program was a disappointment for CU-Boulder scientists at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics led by Professor Larry Esposito, science team leader on a proposed, unmanned mission to land on Venus as part of the program. In 2009 the LASP-led SAGE mission to Venus was named one of three finalists along with OSIRIS-REx and a proposed effort led by Washington University in St. Louis to sample and return material from the far side of the moon.

As the leader of the OSIRIS-REx radio science team, Scheeres and his colleagues will characterize the asteroid's mass and gravity field as a way to better understand its internal structure. "We essentially will be weighing the asteroid to see how the mass is distributed across it," he said. "We need to know the mass and gravity field of the asteroid before the spacecraft comes in contact with it."

Scheeres said that at least one CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher and additional graduate students will be involved in the mission operations, software development and research.

Slated to launch in 2016, the spacecraft will fly to within three miles of the asteroid -- dubbed "1999 RQ36 -- in 2020 and begin a six-month, comprehensive mapping project, said Scheeres. The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft will subsequently conduct a "touch-and-go" on the asteroid, spending about 10 seconds on its surface as a robotic arm collects several ounces of asteroid material for return to Earth, he said.

The mission, excluding the launch vehicle, is expected to cost about $800 million, according to NASA officials.

The mission is in line with objectives outlined by President Barack Obama to reach beyond low-Earth orbit to explore deep space, according to NASA officials, evolving from robotic missions like OSIRIS-REx to future manned missions to asteroids and beyond.

A 2010, study by Scheeres and his colleagues showed that asteroids were not just giant rocks lumbering about in orbit, they are instead constantly changing little "worlds" than can give birth to smaller asteroids that split off to start their own lives as they circle the sun.
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Space: Why NASA Chose Potentially Threatening Asteroid

Postby bystander » Mon May 30, 2011 3:48 am

Why NASA Chose Potentially Threatening Asteroid for New Mission
Space.com | Clara Moskowitz | 2011 May 27
When it comes to visiting asteroids, NASA doesn't pick run-of-the-mill space rocks. The target of NASA's latest asteroid mission is not only thought to be rich in the building blocks of life, it also has a chance — although a remote one — of threatening Earth in the year 2182.

The asteroid 1999 RQ36 is the target of a new unmanned spacecraft, which NASA plans to launch in 2016 to collect a sample from the space rock and return it to Earth by 2023.

The mission's leaders spent a long time surveying possible destinations for the mission, and finally settled on 1999 RQ36. NASA calls the mission OSIRIS-Rex, which is short for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer.

"We went through a whole series of selection criteria," OSIRIS-Rex's deputy principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told SPACE.com. "There are over 500,000 asteroids known. [1999 RQ36] looks really optimum." [Video: The OSIRIS-Rex Mission to 1999 RQ36]

A potentially dangerous asteroid

In addition to digging up clues about our solar system's history, the OSIRIS-Rex mission may be able to help Earth fend off potentially deadly space rocks. That's because asteroid 1999 RQ36 — which is about 1,900 feet (580 meters) wide — is public enemy No. 1 for space rock scientists.

"1999 RQ36 has the highest probability of impacting the Earth of any known Potentially Hazardous Asteroid," according to a mission proposal submitted to NASA by the OSIRIS-Rex in 2009. [Infographic: How NASA's OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Mission Works]

A recent calculation found that the asteroid has a 1-in-1,800 chance of hitting Earth in the year 2170, and a 1-in-1,000 chanceof slamming into us in 2182.

While those are slim odds, they put 1999 RQ36 at the top of the danger list.

"I wouldn't go buy asteroid insurance," Lauretta said. "We're OK for 150 years or so. We're not saving the Earth from immediate danger."

Still, he said studying the asteroid and its orbit up close could help us better predict the risk, and outline a strategy to protect ourselves if necessary.

One reason the likelihood of Earth impact can't be better predicted is because scientists don't fully understand the Yarkovsky effect, which causes asteroids to accelerate slightly when they absorb sunlight and then re-emit it as heat.

"[1999 RQ36's] orbit is currently well known because of optical and radar data but the long-term motion is less well understood because of the poorly defined Yarkovsky effect," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office, who is not directly involved with the OSIRIS-Rex mission. "This mission should allow a much better understanding of these effects once the asteroid's size, mass, rotation characteristics and thermal properties are studied."

Target: Asteroid 1999 RQ36

One of the most attractive features of asteroid 1999 RQ36 for scientists is its size: It is as large as five football fields, which means it won't be spinning too fast when OSIRIS-Rex approaches. The asteroid should also have a large supply of lose dirt, or regolith, on its surface for easy sampling.

1999 RQ36 is thought to be carbonaceous, or rich in carbon and organic material, and likely to contain some of the building blocks of life, such as the amino acids used to build the proteins vital to life on Earth.

"We cannot tell from telescopes exactly what kind of material, but we believe it's the sort of stuff that came in through the Earth's atmosphere after liquid oceans first formed, perhaps by 4.45 billion years ago, and provided those building blocks," said OSIRIS-Rex principal investigator Mike Drake of the University of Arizona, during a news conference yesterday (May 25).

In fact, the asteroid is a primitive B-class carbonaceous asteroid, a class that has never been studied up close by a spacecraft before, and should provide an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the history of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth.

The material inside 1999 RQ36 is thought to date to the very formation of our solar system around 4.56 billion years ago. While the space rock now orbits relatively near Earth — making it a convenient target for visiting — scientists think it is a fragment of an even larger asteroid that collided with another rock in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, a few million years ago.

Building on asteroid successes

The OSIRIS-Rex mission is not NASA's first mission to an asteroid, but it will be the first U.S. probe to retrieve samples and return them to Earth. Only Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft, which returned samples of the asteroid Itokawa to Earth in June 2010 after a seven-year journey, has performed a similar feat.

NASA has sent probes to visit asteroids before. The agency's NEAR spacecraft rendezvoused with the asteroid Eros and ultimately touched down on that space rock at the end of its mission in February 2001.

NASA's Dawn probe, meanwhile, is nearing the asteroid Vesta — the second-largest space rock in the asteroid belt. Dawn will orbit Vesta for many months, then head off to visit Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system.

But the NEAR and Dawn missions are only visiting asteroids. OSIRIS-Rex will bring pieces back home. And that has scientists brimming with anticipation.

"Asteroid 1999 RQ36 is a perfect target for sample return and I can't wait to see the exciting results from both the in situ science activities and the sample return analysis," Yeomans said.
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MIT: To an asteroid, and back

Postby bystander » Tue Jul 26, 2011 6:51 pm

To an asteroid, and back
MIT | Jennifer Chu | 2011 July 26
Image
Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
The asteroid 1999 RQ36 may not be a household name, but astronomers predict that in less than 200 years, it may make an unforgettable impact. According to radar and optical observations, the space rock, measuring some five football fields in diameter, has a 1 in 1,000 chance of crashing into Earth in the year 2182.

Astronomers are also interested in the asteroid's potential to reveal clues about Earth's origins. Based on spectral imaging data, 1999 RQ36 is likely made primarily of carbon and is a relatively untainted remnant of the early solar system, formed 4.56 billion years ago.

The asteroid is the target destination for OSIRIS-REx, a NASA spacecraft scheduled to launch in 2016. The spacecraft, being developed jointly by the University of Arizona, Lockheed Martin and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, aims to bring back a pristine sample of the asteroid by 2023. Now an instrument to be built by students from MIT and Harvard University may help the spacecraft determine where to find the oldest, purest asteroid samples.

NASA recently green-lighted a joint proposal by these MIT and Harvard students to build an X-ray imaging spectrometer, called REXIS (Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer), to fly aboard OSIRIS-REx. The instrument will analyze the asteroid's surface for the presence of carbon, iron, oxygen and other life-forming elements.

"It's a chance to sample the original chemistry of everything that makes the Earth, and us," says Richard Binzel, professor of planetary sciences in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, and an advisor to the student project. "So we're going to be very picky about trying to get the best sample possible."

The student instrument will accompany a suite of others aboard the spacecraft, including cameras that will map the asteroid's size, shape and surface composition. Other instruments will measure the effect of solar wind on the asteroid's orbit — information that may help astronomers plot the asteroid's path relative to the Earth.

Image
An X-ray spectrometer (mock-up shown above)
built by MIT and Harvard students will fly on
OSIRIS-REx, a NASA mission to an asteroid
that will return a sample to Earth in 2023.
(Credit: MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics)
David Miller, professor of space systems in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says the project gives students a rare opportunity to "get their hands dirty" building space-ready hardware.

"In the early days of the space business, a lot of students got a chance to build stuff and launch it," Miller says. "These days, it's a very mature industry … and it's hard for students to really get the scars on their knuckles, trying to build these things."

The hands-on project will get under way this fall as part of the MIT Space Systems Engineering capstone class, co-taught by Miller along with Sara Seager, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Extrasolar Planets, and Kerri Cahoy, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics. Students from both MIT and Harvard will be able to register for the class, and will likely fine-tune the design over several years.

Miller anticipates plenty of technical challenges along the way. For example, in order to get the best measurements, the X-ray spectrometer will be bolted to the outside of the spacecraft, meaning it will receive a high dose of radiation from the sun and cosmic rays on its trip to the asteroid. Longevity is also a concern: It will take three years for the spacecraft to reach its destination before it even begins to explore the asteroid's surface.

Miller plans to have the students build the instrument "multiple times, until we get it right." In the first year, students will design a functional mock-up of the instrument that is able to detect X-rays. In the second year, students will build a new and improved model, fit to the specifications of the main spacecraft. Miller says this model will then be put through a series of vibration tests that simulate launch conditions.

"The eight-minute ride to orbit is always the most dynamically harsh environment that any space vehicle feels," Miller says. "If it can survive well beyond those levels, we think we have a good design."

In the third year, students will engineer the flight unit — the instrument that will fly to the asteroid. In addition to the technical expertise students will gain through the project, Miller hopes they will learn some real-world lessons: They'll have to present progress reports to NASA and the OSIRIS-REx team, and deliver results on schedule.

Throughout the project, students from MIT and Harvard will work with scientists from MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Harvard College Observatory, as well as NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.

"Going and bringing back this time capsule from the beginning of the solar system is absolutely a huge opportunity," Binzel says. "We launch in 2016, and the return is 2023, and by that time, students will be off doing other things, but they will always have a piece of this."
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Science@NASA: NASA Plans to Visit a Near-Earth Asteroid

Postby bystander » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:01 pm

NASA Plans to Visit a Near-Earth Asteroid
NASA Science News | Dauna Coulter | 2011 Aug 16
In a few years a NASA spacecraft will seek the building blocks of life in a shovelful of asteroid dirt. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, targeted for launch in September 2016, will intercept asteroid 1999 RQ36, orbit it for a year, and then reach out a robotic arm to touch its surface.

"We call it 'touch and go,'" explains principal investigator Michael Drake of the University of Arizona. "OSIRIS-REx will approach the surface at 0.1 m/sec (only 0.2 mph, less than a tenth of walking pace) and, without landing, stretch out its arm equipped with a sample collector. We'll simply agitate the asteroid's surface with ultra-pure nitrogen to stir up material for capture."

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Asteroids appear to be as lifeless as Yorick's skull, yet material captured from 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to life's origin on Earth.

Some scientists believe Earth's surface was sterilized soon after the planet was formed some 4.5 billion years ago. Planetoids and other debris left over from the genesis of planets pummeled Earth, turning it into a cratered wasteland. The tremendous kinetic energy from the collisions heated Earth to the boiling point.

"Earth at 'time zero' had a steam atmosphere that was wrung out to make a boiling hot ocean," says Drake. "Imagine standing on a lava lake in Hawaii, but it's a planet-wide, 600 mile deep lake. You and everything else, including any organics and any one-celled organisms, would be converted to carbon dioxide and water. Gone."

In this scenario, an infusion of organics from elsewhere might be required to ignite life here. The building blocks for life on our planet may have come, at least in part, from asteroids.

"Observations by ground-based telescopes suggest that asteroid 1999 RQ36 has a wealth of carbon-based compounds, but we don't know exactly what is there. Are there amino acids? To find out, we need to bring a sample home where we have sophisticated, exquisitely precise instruments, plus the ability to react to new discoveries."

Obtaining that sample is a key part of OSIRIS-REx's mission.

Upon reaching 1999 RQ36 in 2019, the spacecraft's suite of cameras and instruments will spend a year photographing the asteroid and measuring its surface topography, composition, and thermal emissions while its radio provides mass and gravity field maps. This information will increase our understanding of asteroids as well as help the mission team select the most promising sample site.

Like the ancient Egyptian god Osiris, the OSIRIS-REx mission is associated with death as well as life, with both our destiny and our origin. That's because 1999 RQ36 is the Near Earth Object "Most Likely to Succeed" – in affecting our destiny, that is. It has a 1/1800 chance of hitting Earth by the 22nd century.

Evidence suggests that a 6-mile wide asteroid smashed into Earth about 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and altering the history of life. Instead of dinosaurs prevailing, mammals flourished, evolving into humans.

"We're the first species that can mitigate asteroid extinction," notes Drake. "With enough information, we can project the orbit of a threatening asteroid."

If researchers can track an NEO's precise path, they can devise a way to nudge the object out of a collision course with Earth. OSIRIS-REx wil help NASA learn to navigate near an asteroid, laying the groundwork for landing on one. That could be pretty tricky, considering asteroids like 1999 RQ36 have so little gravity.

"If you simply pushed your finger into the surface, you'd fly off into space, disappear, and never come back!"

OSIRIS-REx, however, will hang close, and its cameras will give us window seats to watch its delicate sampling maneuvers. The mission team plans near-live coverage of the operations. But the real action starts, says Drake, when the sample is returned to Earth in 2023.

A future story from Science@NASA will explain how the sample will be handled upon return and lay out some of the experiments researchers will do with it. Stay tuned.
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Arizona: Last Look at Asteroid Planned Before OSIRIS-REx Lau

Postby bystander » Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:43 pm

Astronomers Plan Last Look at Asteroid Before OSIRIS-REx Launch
University of Arizona | Lunar and Planetary Laboratory | Lori Stiles | 2011 Sept 13
Every six years, asteroid 1999 RQ 36 nears the Earth - by cosmic standards - and researchers are launching a global observation campaign to learn as much as possible in preparation for the OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S.-led mission to bring back a sample of pristine asteroid material.

Astronomers working on the U.S.' first asteroid-sample return mission – the NASA mission named OSIRIS-REx – have begun a months-long observing campaign that is the last chance to study their target asteroid from Earth before the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launches in 2016.

OSIRIS-REx is a quest to bring back to Earth a good-sized sample of an asteroid unaltered since solar system formation – a sample that very well could contain molecules that seeded life.

Discovered in 1999, the OSIRIS-REx target asteroid, designated 1999 RQ36, nears Earth once every six years. During the 2011 closest approach in early September, it will be 10.9 million miles (17.5 million kilometers) away. In 1999, closest approach was 1.4 million miles (2.3 million kilometers).

"Six years sets the whole cadence for our mission," said Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, deputy principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission.

"The next chance for ground-based telescopes to see this asteroid will be in 2017, when it again nears Earth. Our spacecraft performs a gravity-assist at this time, giving it the kick it needs to rendezvous with the asteroid in 2019-20. The next chance for ground-based astronomy is 2023, the year the spacecraft returns a sample of the asteroid to Earth."

1999 RQ36 last attracted astronomers' attention in 2005, when it passed 3.1 million miles (5 million kilometers) from Earth and appeared 30 times brighter than it does this year.

In 2005, Carl Hergenrother of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory was searching with the 61-inch Kuiper telescope on Mt. Bigelow north of Tucson for exciting targets for the proposed asteroid sample-return mission. He observed 1999 RQ36.

"Looking at my data, I saw this was a B-type asteroid, which is carbonaceous and related to unusual outer main-belt asteroids that act like comets by outgassing volatiles," Hergenrother, who heads the OSIRIS-REx asteroid astronomy working group, said.

After a quick search of the scientific literature, which turned up nothing on the object, he did a Google search. Jackpot.

"Astronomers had been observing this asteroid, just not formally publishing about it," Hergenrother said. "Their results were sitting on their personal Web pages. They had radar images of it, visible and near-infrared observations, confirmed it was a B-type (bluish) asteroid, got a pretty good light curve and a rotation period, although the rotation period was wrong."

Michael Drake of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx, urged Josh Emery, one of Drake's former students, now of the University of Tennessee and a co-investigator on OSIRIS-REx, to observe 1999 RQ36 with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Emery won the telescope time, providing first observations of the asteroid at thermal infrared wavelengths.

"Coming out of 2006-07, 1999 RQ36 was probably the best-studied near-Earth asteroid out there that hadn't already been visited by a spacecraft," Hergenrother said. "We lucked out in that not only is this an asteroid that's relatively easy to get to, it is extremely interesting, exactly the kind of object that we want for this mission."

The international team of astronomers collaborating in the fall 2011-spring 2012 observing campaign for 1999 RQ36 have time or are applying for time on a network of telescopes operating in Arizona, the Canary Islands, Chile, Puerto Rico and space.

The new observations will not only influence mission planning and development, but will directly address two key OSIRIS-REx mission goals, Lauretta said.

One goal is to check results from ground-based observations against results from OSIRIS-REx spacecraft observations that will be made in 2019-20 as the spacecraft circles the asteroid for about 500 days.

Another goal is to measure a slight force called the "Yarkovsky effect" to better understand the likelihood that potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, such as 1999 RQ36, will strike our planet, and when.
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Re: OSIRIS-REx: Asteroid 1999 RQ36

Postby bystander » Mon May 28, 2012 11:08 pm

OSIRIS-REx Scientists Measure Yarkovsky Effect
University of Arizona | NASA GSFC | 2012 May 24
Scientists with the UA-led asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, have measured the mass and orbit of their destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, with great accuracy.

Scientists with the University of Arizona-led asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx have measured the orbit of their destination asteroid, 1999 RQ36, with such accuracy they were able to directly determine the drift resulting from a subtle but important force called the Yarkovsky effect – the slight push created when the asteroid absorbs sunlight and re-emits that energy as heat.

The new orbit for the half-kilometer (one-third mile) diameter 1999 RQ36 is the most precise asteroid orbit ever obtained, OSIRIS-REx team member Steven Chesley of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. He presented the findings May 19 at the Asteroids, Comets and Meteors 2012 meeting in Niigata, Japan.

Remarkable observations that Michael Nolan at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico made in September, along with Arecibo and Goldstone radar observations made in 1999 and 2005, when 1999 RQ36 passed much closer to Earth, show that the asteroid has deviated from its gravity-ruled orbit by roughly 100 miles, or 160 kilometers, in the last 12 years, a deviation caused by the Yarkovsky effect.

The Yarkovsky effect is named for the 19th-century Russian engineer who first proposed the idea that a small rocky space object would, over long periods of time, be noticeably nudged in its orbit by the slight push created when it absorbs sunlight and then re-emits that energy as heat.

The effect is difficult to measure because it's so infinitesimally small, Chesley said.

"The Yarkovsky force on 1999 RQ36 at its peak, when the asteroid is nearest the sun, is only about a half-ounce – about the weight of three grapes on Earth. Meanwhile, the mass of the asteroid is estimated to be about 68 million tons. You need extremely precise measurements over a fairly long time span to see something so slight acting on something so huge."

Nolan, who obtained his doctorate at the UA, succeeded in a heroic effort to get a 16-ton power supply for the transmitter from Pennsylvania to Puerto Rico in six days in time for the observations, which he made on three separate nights last September. Nolan and his team measured the distance between the Arecibo Observatory and 1999 RQ36 to an accuracy of 300 meters, or about one-fifth of a mile, when the asteroid was 30 million kilometers, or 20 million miles, from Earth.

"That's like measuring the distance between New York City and Los Angeles to an accuracy of 2 inches, and fine enough that we have to take the size of the asteroid and of Arecibo Observatory into account when making the measurements," Nolan said.

Chesley and his colleagues used the new Arecibo measurements to calculate a series of 1999 RQ36 approaches closer to Earth than 7.5 million kilometers (4.6 million miles) from the years 1654 to 2135. There turned out to be 11 such encounters.

In 2135, the 500-meter (1,640-foot) diameter asteroid will swing by Earth at around 350,000 kilometers (220,000 miles), its closest approach over the 481-year time span. That's closer than the moon, which orbits about 390,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) from Earth. At such close distances, the asteroid's subsequent trajectory becomes impossible to accurately predict so close approaches can only be studied statistically, Chesley said.

"The new results don't really change what is qualitatively known about the probability of future impacts," Chesley said. "The odds of this potentially hazardous asteroid colliding with Earth late in the 22nd century are still calculated to be about one in a few thousand."

But the new results do sharpen the picture of how potentially hazardous 1999 RQ36 could be farther into the future. Scientists now have identified many low-probability potential impacts in the 2170s through the 2190s while ruling out others, Chesley said.

"OSIRIS-REx science team members Steve Chesley and Mike Nolan have achieved a spectacular result with this investigation," said Dante Lauretta, the mission's principal investigator and professor of planetary science at the UA. "This study is an important step in better understanding the Yarkovsky effect – a subtle force that contributes to the orbital evolution of new near-Earth objects."

Lauretta added that "this information is critical for assessing the likelihood of an impact from our target asteroid and provides important constraints on its mass and density, allowing us to substantially improve our mission design."

The final piece to the puzzle was provided by the University of Tennessee’s Josh Emery, who used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007 to study the space rock's thermal characteristics. Emery’s measurements of the infrared emissions from 1999 RQ36 allowed him to derive the object’s temperatures.

From there he was able to determine the degree to which the asteroid is covered by an insulating blanket of fine material, which is a key factor for the Yarkovsky effect.

With the space rock's orbit, size, thermal properties and propulsive force (Yarkovsky effect) understood, Chesley could perform the space rock scientist equivalent of solving for "x" and calculate its bulk density.

“1999 RQ36 has about the same density as water, and so it’s very light for its size,” said Chesley. “This means that it’s more than likely a very porous jumble of rocks and dust.”

Asteroid 1999 RQ36 is of particular interest to NASA as it is the target of the agency's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission. Scheduled for launch in 2016, ORIRIS-Rex will visit 1999 RQ36, collect samples from the asteroid and return them to Earth.

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called Spaceguard, discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and establishes their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Finding the bulk density of a solitary space object by combining radar tracking and infrared observations might once have seemed almost science fiction, Chesley said.

What OSIRIS-REx scientists are beginning to learn about Yarkovsky drift strengthens the idea that "the Yarkovsky effect can be used to probe the physical properties of asteroids that we can't visit with spacecraft," he said.

NASA Scientist Figures Way to Weigh Space Rock
NASA | JPL-Caltech | Spitzer | 2012 May 24
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Re: Space: Asteroid Could Threaten the Earth in 2182

Postby charlieo3 » Tue May 29, 2012 3:40 am

Ann wrote:There is a 1-in-1,000 chance of this asteroid actually hitting the Earth?

Hmmm. I seem to remember that not too long ago, there was a perhaps 1-in-25 chance of an asteroid or comet hitting another planetary body in our solar system, perhaps Mars or Phobos. I hoped it would hit, because it would have been interesting if astronomers had been able to analyse the plume of the impact.

So, did the thing hit? No. A big fat no. And possible observers on Mars waiting to see the impact as 1999 RQ36 hits us in 2182 are going to be equally disappointed. You bet!

Ann


http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/sl9/

"From July 16 through July 22, 1994, pieces of an object designated as Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. This is the first collision of two solar system bodies ever to be observed, and the effects of the comet impacts on Jupiter's atmosphere have been simply spectacular and beyond expectations. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 consisted of at least 21 discernable fragments with diameters estimated at up to 2 kilometers."

Perhaps 1994 doesn't qualify as "not too long ago" for some, but I am surprised that no one has mentioned (unless I missed it) the Shoemaker-Levy event. It certainly hit. I remember it like it was yesterday, and certainly on an astronomical time scale it was not too long ago. Maybe, Ann, you were thinking of something you heard more recently. Hopefully, not something from the yo-yo's and their planet Nibiru. ;-)

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NASA Announces Asteroid Naming Contest for Students

Postby bystander » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:18 am

NASA Announces Asteroid Naming Contest for Students
NASA GSFC | Elizabeth Zubritsky | 2012 Sep 04
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return the first samples to Earth.

Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Samples returned from the primitive surface of the near-Earth asteroid currently called (101955) 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to the origin of the solar system and organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth. NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025. A closer scientific study of asteroids will provide context and help inform this mission.

"Because the samples returned by the mission will be available for study for future generations, it is possible the person who names the asteroid will grow up to study the regolith we return to Earth," said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

The contest is a partnership with The Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington; and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

A panel will review proposed asteroid names.. First prize will be awarded to the student who recommends a name that is approved by the International Astronomical Union Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature.

"Our mission will be focused on this asteroid for more than a decade," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the mission at the University of Arizona. "We look forward to having a name that is easier to say than (101955) 1999 RQ36."

The asteroid was discovered in 1999 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. LINEAR is part of NASA's Near Earth Observation Program, Washington, which detects and catalogs near-Earth asteroids, and comets.. The asteroid has an average diameter of approximately one-third of a mile (500 meters).

“We are excited to have discovered the minor planet that will be visited by the OSIRIS-REx mission and to be able to engage students around the world to suggest a name for 1999 RQ36,” said Grant Stokes, head of the Aerospace Division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and principal investigator for the LINEAR program.

The asteroid received its designation of (101955) 1999 RQ36 from the Minor Planet Center, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. The center assigns an initial alphanumeric designation to any newly discovered asteroid that once certain criteria are met to determine its orbit.

"Asteroids are just cool and 1999 RQ36 deserves a cool name!" said Bill Nye, chief executive officer for The Planetary Society. "Engaging kids around the world in a naming contest will get them tuned in to asteroids and asteroid science."

› Contest rules and guidelines

Hello, My Name Is 1999 RQ36! What's Yours?
Discovery News | Ian O'Neill | 2012 Sep 04

Asteroid 1999 RQ36 Needs a New Name!
Universe Today | Nancy Atkinson | 2012 Sep 04

Name That Asteroid! 1999 RQ36
Planetary Society | Bill Nye | 2012 Sep 04
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Asteroid 1999 RQ36 named "Bennu"

Postby bystander » Thu May 02, 2013 10:18 am

We have a winner! The OSIRIS-REx asteroid's name is: Bennu!
Planetary Society | Emily Lakdawalla | 2013 May 01

Nine-Year-Old Names Asteroid Target of NASA Mission
Planetary Society | Diane Murphy | 2013 May 01

Nine-Year-Old Names Target Asteroid of UA-Led NASA Mission
University of Arizona | 2013 May 01

NASA Spacecraft Will Visit Asteroid with New Name
NASA | GSFC | 2013 May 01
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OSIRIS-REx Moves into Development

Postby bystander » Sun May 19, 2013 6:37 pm

NASA's Asteroid Sample Return Mission Moves into Development
NASA | Goddard Space Flight Center | OSIRIS-REx | 2013 May 16

UA-Led Asteroid Mission is a Go
University of Arizona | 2013 May 16

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
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Re: OSIRIS-REx Moves into Development

Postby neufer » Sun May 19, 2013 9:23 pm

bystander wrote:NASA's Asteroid Sample Return Mission Moves into Development
NASA | Goddard Space Flight Center | OSIRIS-REx | 2013 May 16

UA-Led Asteroid Mission is a Go
University of Arizona | 2013 May 16


Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Art Neuendorffer

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Re: OSIRIS-REx: Asteroid 1999 RQ36 (Bennu)

Postby MargaritaMc » Fri Oct 31, 2014 5:29 pm

Planetary Society: Collaboration Between OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa-2

Guest blog: Posted by Dante Lauretta
2014/10/20 15:35 UTC


... The primary goal of Hayabusa-2 is to again return asteroid samples to Earth. This time the science is driven by sample return from a C-type asteroid, called 1999 JU3, which is thought to contain more organic matter than the S-type asteroid explored by the original Hayabusa mission. OSIRIS-REx is targeting Bennu, a B-type asteroid. Successful sample collection from both target asteroids is expected to provide knowledge on the origin and evolution of the planets, and in particular the origin of water and organic matter on the Earth.
...

Professor Lauretta writes:
Dr. Saku Tsuneta visits the University of Arizona
I was honored to welcome Dr. Saku Tsuneta to the UA.




Background information about Hayabusa-2 in this Planetary Society blog post
Margarita
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