OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century. OSIRIS-REx will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals. In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and manned spacecraft.
The mythology of the Egyptian god Osiris loosely parallels the OSIRIS-REx mission. Osiris, in his original form, was believed to have spread an understanding of agriculture throughout the Nile Delta, hence bringing life to the ancient world. Likewise, OSIRIS-REx seeks to return samples of an asteroid that may contain organics that led to the origin of life on Earth. Osiris also had a dual role as the god of the Underworld, which mirrors the destruction that large asteroid impacts have created.
OSIRIS-REx’s key science objectives include:
Return and analyze a sample of Bennu’s surface
Map the asteroid
Document the sample site
Measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect)
Compare observations at the asteroid to ground-based observations
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on ULA’s Atlas V rocket. OSIRIS-REx will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu and bring a small sample back to Earth for study in the first U.S. asteroid mission.
Launch viewing opportunities for OSIRIS-REx are available at the LC-39 Observation Gantry, NASA Causeway, and the main visitor complex with bleacher seating and launch commentary. Launch Viewing/Transportation Tickets to LC-39 Observation Gantry are available for $49, in addition to daily admission. Tickets to NASA Causeway are available for $39, in addition to daily admission. Tickets for LC-39 and NASA Causeway are available online and by calling 855-475-8415. The main visitor complex viewing area is included with daily admission and is located next to Space Shuttle Atlantis. Restrooms and other amenities are available at all viewing areas.