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Uploaded:2016-09-02
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OSIRIS-REx is launching soon and it will become the first American spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid!


Thumbnail Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
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Sources:
http://www.asteroidmission.org/
http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2016/08171334-osiris-rex-launch-preview.html
http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-prepares-to-launch-first-us-asteroid-sample-return-mission
http://science.nasa.gov/missions/osiris-rex/
http://ssl.mit.edu/newsite/research/REXIS.php
http://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/muses_c/
http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html
https://discoverynewfrontiers.nasa.gov/index.cfml

Images:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OSIRIS-REx_spacecraft.png
http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-identifying-candidate-asteroids-for-redirect-mission
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:InnerSolarSystem.png
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:(253)_mathilde.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Properties_of_regolith_on_Eros.jpg
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=871
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OSIRIS-REx_mural.png
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OSIRIS-REx_Instrument_Deck.png
http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/osiris-rex-will-map-asteroid-bennu
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0FxDxs7lyw
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:OSIRIS-REx_Artist%E2%80%99s_conception.png
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stardust_Capsule_on_Ground.jpg
https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/bennus-journey
[SciShow intro plays]

Hank: It’s been in the works for more than a decade. And now, the time has finally come: NASA’s getting ready to launch its first asteroid sampling mission, called OSIRIS-REx. On September 8th — that’s this coming Thursday! — OSIRIS-REx is set to blast off and begin its journey to the asteroid 101955 Bennu. The probe will collect a small sample from Bennu to help researchers learn more about how life could have begun here on Earth.

Of the 500,000 known asteroids orbiting the sun, Bennu was chosen because its orbit takes it close to Earth — it passes within 450,000 kilometers of us — and because of its size and chemical composition. Asteroids smaller than about 200 meters across spin so fast that any loose material we’d want to study might have already been thrown into space. But Bennu is about 500 meters in diameter, so it’s large enough that it doesn’t spin too quickly to take a sample. More importantly, though, Bennu is rich in carbon and other organic material.

Asteroids like Bennu haven’t changed much since they formed more than 4 billion years ago, meaning the material they’re made of is the same stuff that was floating around when Earth formed. By analyzing the regolith, the loose, rocky material on the surface of the asteroid, NASA hopes to uncover elements and amino acids that might have been the building blocks for life on Earth.

Since we’ve already found these molecules in meteorites and on comets, we know the elements for life can be created in space, but this time, we’re hoping to learn even more. NASA has been visiting asteroids since the Galileo mission 1991, and we’ve even sampled a comet with the 1999 Stardust mission, but OSIRIS-REx will be the first American spacecraft to take and return samples from an asteroid. The Japanese Space Agency, JAXA, completed a similar asteroid sampling mission in 2010, so OSIRIS-REx will contribute to a growing body of research.

And after more than ten years of planning, it’s almost ready to go! OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida in only six days! Once in orbit, it will slingshot around Earth in a gravity assist, using Earth’s gravitational pull to help generate speed. Then it’s off to Bennu, where it will arrive in 2018. For almost two years, the spacecraft will travel with the asteroid, creating maps, checking out its geology, and selecting a final target for sampling, using five top-notch scientific instruments.

The OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite contains cameras that will map the asteroid. That’ll also help the sampling process go more smoothly. The laser altimeter will create a topographical map of the asteroid, and the visible and infrared spectrometer will map Bennu’s composition.

Meanwhile, the OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer will check out the asteroid’s mineralogy and surface temperatures. Finally, there’s REXIS, the Regolith X-Ray Imaging System. This is an experiment created by students from MIT and Harvard, and its goal is to track the different elements on the asteroid’s surface.

After nearly two years, the asteroid sampling part of the mission will finally begin in July 2020. Instead of landing on Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will use the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism to basically give the asteroid a high-five. To collect a sample, the craft will reach out with a mechanical arm and touch the asteroid for only five seconds.

In those five seconds, it’ll release a puff of nitrogen gas to loosen material from the asteroid’s surface, and pop it off into space. And then it will just sort of hope that some of that stuff falls into its capsule where it will close up and keep all the asteroid samples. It’s pretty cool! In case there are any issues, OSIRIS-REx will carry enough nitrogen for three attempts.

Depending on how the process goes, it could collect anywhere between 60 grams and 2 kilograms of material – the most we’ve returned from a mission since the Apollo days. Eight months later, OSIRIS-REx will leave the asteroid and head back toward Earth. Once it gets close, it’ll eject the capsule carrying the sample, then enter an orbit around the sun.

The sample capsule has heat shields and parachutes, which will help it land in the Utah desert in 2023 — seven years after the mission started. Some of the material from Bennu will be shared with other space agencies or set aside for future research, and the rest will be examined all the way down to the atomic level. Bennu is like a time capsule of our early solar system. Hopefully, our visit will give us a much better idea of what was floating around the solar system as it formed.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space News, and thanks especially to our patrons on Patreon. Now, for the last four months of 2016 we’re going to be doing something a little bit different with Patreon. We’ve decided to take all of our Patreon pledges from September to December and put them towards creating a brand new SciShow channel.

We have several ideas for what we would like to add to our current selection of SciShow channels which is just SciShow and here on SciShow Space. And those ideas are: SciShow Life, SciShow Psychology, and SciShow Health. We want to do all of those things very badly, but we’re having a hard time choosing which one to do. So we are going to let our patrons decide. If you would like to give us some money to go toward that new project and also help select which one of those things is going to be the first one that gets done, because we’re not saying we’re not going to do the other ones... you can go to Patreon.com/SciShow to check it out. We are so excited to be doing new and cool things with SciShow and we are so pleased to have your support in doing it. Thanks for watching!