Arizona Senator John McCain releases statement on historic space mission

TUCSON –

Arizona Senator John McCain today released a statement on this afternoon’s launch of the spacecraft Osiris-REx and the University of Arizona’s involvement in this historic mission.

His statement reads:

“Mr. President, I am proud to come to the Senate floor to call attention and to honor the Osiris-REx spacecraft, which is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, tonight at 7 p.m.

“In the finest traditions of space exploration, this spacecraft will journey on a seven-year roundtrip mission to an asteroid that NASA has classified as ‘potentially hazardous’ to Earth—to complete a survey and return to Earth with the largest sample of extra-terrestrial material since the Apollo lunar missions.

“This program will yield insights into asteroid composition and how asteroids move in space. The truth is that, despite the potential for large asteroids to impact the Earth in catastrophic ways, we still know relatively little about them. The OSIRIS-REx mission will shed light onto both their physical and chemical properties, which is information that will be critical for predicting their movements and designing strategies to prevent catastrophic asteroid impacts to the Earth—as well as aid in the commercial exploitation of near-earth objects.

“The most unique aspect of the Osiris-REx mission is the large and pristine sample of the asteroid that will be brought back to Earth, which will allow scientists to examine the composition of an asteroid using instruments and techniques that are far more advanced than what could be done in space. Scientists from the University of Arizona (UA) will also examine the sample for the resources that could be mined from asteroids in the future, such as precious metals. Interestingly, medium-to-large-sized space rocks might contain hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in minerals and precious metals.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of this mission is the research into the origins our universe and galaxy it will provide. The samples that the mission will bring back will help begin to answer some of the most profound and fundamental questions that have intrigued mankind since the beginning.

“The Osiris-REx mission is funded by NASA and led by UA from my own great State of Arizona. I would like to congratulate UA President Ann Weaver Hart and former President Robert Shelton for championing space exploration; Dr. Dante Lauretta of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory for his leadership as principal investigator; and his team, for bringing this exciting mission to the launch stage. I understand that, under the leadership of the late Dr. Michael Drake and Dr. Lauretta, UA has been working on this concept for the last 15 years.

“I would also like to acknowledge the other project partners, which include:

         “NASA’s Goddard Space Center

         “Lockheed Martin, which built the spacecraft bus on which the various science instruments are mounted

         “Arizona State University, which built an instrument on the spacecraft that will investigate mineral abundances and provide temperature information

         “KinetX Aerospace

         “Massachusetts Institute of Technology

         “United Launch Alliance

“I also appreciate our international collaborators, including, the Canadian Space Agency and the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES), the French government space agency.

“This mission is the latest of a long list of achievements by UA and its globally recognized space scientists. In fact, UA scientists have collaborated in every single American mission to the Moon and contributed to every mission to Mars since 1964, including serving as the lead on the Phoenix Mars Mission.

“With this mission, UA is expanding the boundaries of space science, including innovating in the global challenge of planetary orbital object tracking through their Space Object Behavioral Sciences (SOBS) initiative. Furthermore, I applaud UA, NASA, and Lockheed Martin for helping maintain the United States’ leadership in near-Earth space, particularly at a time when the international community is showing a high interest in moving into this arena.

“I wish the Osiris-REx team the best of luck for a successful launch. As the Osiris-REx countdown clock that has been hanging in my office for the last year gets very close to zero, I look forward to tuning in to NASA TV to watch history being made. 

“Thank you.”

Sen. John McCain

(R) Arizona