The launch of OSIRIS-REx could usher in a new era for the space agency.
NASA is getting ever closer to launching its first ever asteroid-sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx. The launch will happen this Thursday, Sept. 8, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Things are looking good for the launch in terms of weather, with an 80 percent chance forecasted for good conditions to allow a launch, and hopefully there isn’t a repeat of the incident that happened on Sept. 1, when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blew up on a neighboring pad at Cape Canaveral.
OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, is an $800 million mission that is aimed at sending a probe to a 500-meter-wide asteroid called Bennu sometime in August 2018. The probe will snag a piece of rock from the asteroid and then get back to Earth in September 2023. The mission could provide scientists with huge insight into the organic molecules — the building blocks of life — found on such asteroids that may have led to life here on Earth.
“Launch and mission controllers are at their consoles this afternoon in a dress rehearsal for the upcoming launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket,” NASA said in its latest statement. “NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Goddard Space Flight Center, United Launch Alliance and Lockheed Martin all are participating in today’s test. OSIRIS-REx is sealed inside the payload fairing and already in place atop the rocket at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch team is based at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center a few miles south of the launch site.”