ASU helping to make space history with asteroid mission

TEMPE, Ariz. –  It’s the biggest space project in Arizona history. NASA launched the Osris-REx Spacecraft on Thursday from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Its mission: to land on the nearest asteroid closest to Earth and send back rock and dirt samples.

A packed house at ASU’s Marston Exploration theater watched the successful launch of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

“It was pretty awesome. It’s not every day you get to see that type of rocket take off,” said Justin Goodman, a student in the earth and space exploration program at ASU.

“Just an amazing sight to see that everything is working together,” said Austin Wilson, studying aeronautics and space engineering at ASU.

It is a joint project between University of Arizona and Arizona State University. A hundred engineers, including graduates and undergraduates from both universities, worked nearly five years to build and test the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

It will orbit the nearest asteroid and map it out with a thermal image spectrometer — or OTES — designed by ASU, where it will find the best place to land and collect samples of dirt and rock and then return to earth.

“An asteroid that comes close to the Earth occasionally and it’s from a class of asteroids that are very primitive — unchanged since the formation of the solar system,” said Dr. Jim Bell, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. “Inside that canister will be precious samples of the earliest materials from the origins of the solar system.”

It’ll take the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft two years to get to the asteroid and another two years before it can land and collect samples. It’ll take about three years to travel back to Earth.

Copyright 2016 KPNX