Public Lecture: Playing Tag with an Asteroid - NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission at Asteroid Bennu
Come hear an insider’s account of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission, one of the most challenging scientific expeditions in history. Primitive asteroids are remnants of the early solar system that cast light on solar system evolution and the origin of our planet. They may carry organic compounds necessary for the beginnings of life, as well as water and other volatiles that could have made the early Earth a habitable planet.
On October 20, 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descended to the surface of the primitive asteroid Bennu, contacted briefly, and collected a sample of carbonaceous material. These samples will be delivered to Earth in September 2023. The speaker, Dante Lauretta, is the mission’s Principal Investigator and has made it his life’s work to get a spacecraft—called OSIRIS-REx—to Bennu and back to Earth, a project that began in 2004 and will conclude next year.
Because Bennu is a time capsule from the early solar system, analyses of these samples promise unprecedented advancement in our knowledge of planet formation and the origin of life. In particular, the samples will be analyzed to determine whether any of the building blocks required for life could have been delivered by carbonaceous asteroids early in Earth history. The sample will also unlock untold secrets about the origins of our planet and solar system.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab/Scientific Visualization Studio