First instrument delivered for NASA’s asteroid mission

Washington, June 27 (IANS) The first of five instruments for a spacecraft that will collect a sample from an asteroid and bring it back to Earth has arrived at Lockheed Martin for installation onto NASA’s Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).

OSIRIS-REx is the first US mission to fly to, study, and retrieve a pristine sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth for study, the US space agency said in a statement.

“The next few months will be very busy as we begin integrating the instruments and prepare for the system-level environmental testing program to begin,” said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch in September next year and will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

The OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundances and to take the asteroid Bennu’s temperature.

“OTES, the size of a microwave oven, has spent the last several years being designed, built, tested and calibrated,” said Philip Christensen, OTES instrument scientist at ASU.

“Now, OTES is shipping out for the solar system,” Christensen said.

The instrument will be powered on shortly after the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft begins its two-year trip to Bennu.

On arrival at Bennu, OTES will provide spectral data for global maps used to assess potential sample sites.

The mission will allow scientists to investigate the composition of material from the very earliest epochs of solar system history, providing information about the source of organic materials and water on Earth.

“It is a significant milestone to have OSIRIS-REx’s first instrument completed and delivered for integration onto the spacecraft,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

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