OSIRIS-REx Is Headed for an Asteroid Encounter, Following ‘Perfect’ Launch

By Nola Taylor Redd | September 9, 2016 2:52 pm
Liftoff! (Credit: NASA)

Liftoff! (Credit: NASA)

Smoke and fire covered the ground as the NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission launched into space. Blasting out of Earth’s orbit on Thursday, the mission begins its two-year journey to sample an asteroid. It will be seven long years before the spacecraft returns home, dropping its bounty into the Utah desert. Along the way, it will map an asteroid in depth and help scientists better understand the secrets of the early universe.

Mission team members anticipated good conditions headed into the launch. Favorable conditions heralded the day, with light thunderstorms sweeping quickly through around noon. By evening, the sky overhead was clear of clouds, though a few gathered over the ocean to the east.

OSIRIS-REx launched aboard at Atlas V rocket, exploding into the sky promptly on schedule at 7:05 pm EST. This was the rocket’s 65th successful launch, and it was a triumph. At its head, OSIRIS-REx cut through the clear blue sky with deceptive ease.

“We hit all of our milestones right on time—in most cases, a little ahead of time,” United Launch Alliance program manager Scott Messer told the press right after the launch.

“The vehicle performance was absolutely perfect,” he said.

An hour after the launch, long after it was out of sight, the rocket separated from the upper stage. According to Messer, the vehicle entered an almost-perfect orbit, making a handful of minor corrections to ensure it remained on course.

Following its separation, the spacecraft was “immediately able to start receiving some telemetry back from the vehicle,” Rick Kuhns, the OSIRIS-REx program manager for Lockheed Martin, told the press. In the time between launch and the evening conference two hours later, the propulsion system was initialized, the solar arrays were deployed, and the spacecraft turned in multiple directions to ensure everything functioned properly. Within 40 minutes of separation, OSIRIS-REx communicated with the Canberra Deep Space Ground Communication in Australia.

“The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is happy and healthy,” Kuhns said. “Let’s go get the science!”

OSIRIS-REx principle investigator Dante Lauretta called the launch “a wild, emotional ride.”

The journey, however, has only begun. OSIRIS-REx will spend two years traveling through space to reach the asteroid Bennu, and another two years making extensive maps of its surface in search of the best site to retrieve a sample from. Once it has scooped up material from the asteroid’s outer layer, it will spend another two years traveling back home, hurling its sample to Earth when it arrives.

“We’ve worked really hard to get to this point,” Lauretta said of the launch. He looks forward to the next stage, when the spacecraft will enter orbit around Bennu, retrieve a sample, and return home.

“The best times are ahead of us.”


This article originally appeared in Astronomy.com

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: space exploration
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    OSIRIS-REx mission sample retrieval bot visits an admitted organic asteroid perhaps teeming with panspermia. “hurling its sample to Earth when it arrives” “dropping its bounty into the Utah desert” re Outer Limits‘ “Specimen: Unknown” (24 February 1964). “He called them ‘space barnacles’ for temporary identification. They were not.'”

    19 May 1953, 32 kt “Dirty” Harry detonated at Yucca Flat, NV and deposited major fallout on St. George, Utah 135 miles downwind. Genesis mission, 08 September 2004, crash landed in Tooele County, Utah and ruptured sample containers. Stardust mission, 15 January 2006, Utah Test and Training Range landing. How come it’s always Mormons in the first open Petri dish?

    • OWilson

      I’d like to think NASA is putting as much effort in surveying what goes on in China. Russia, Iran and North Korea, as they are on those now familiar old asteroids and comets.

      • Robert Holmén

        The NSA and CIA are separately funded for that. They have their own satellites for that.

        • OWilson

          Who funded their junior high cartoon logo?

          Too silly for the moderators to allow me to reproduce here.

          Hardly inspirational!

          • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

            It does call forth a couple of fingers poking through an OK sign, front or rear (no “basket of deplorables” here!), doesn’t it? Perhaps NASA cribbed Star Trek Starfleet insignia, “Per asspera ad asstra.”

          • Robert Holmén

            All government agencies are funded by Congress.

            Logos serve as identification, not inspiration.

          • OWilson

            Thanks for the clarification.

            I hope you work there! :)

        • Martha Bartha

          Right! Eye in the Sky………


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