OSIRIS-Rex: Bringing Home Pieces of an Asteroid

Space.com | 10/30/2017 | Staff
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In 2023, a bit of the primordial solar system will return to Earth. That's when NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explore) mission will return a sample of the asteroid Bennu, a carbon-rich rock hosting traces of the early solar system. While there, the mission will conduct an in-depth study of the rocky body, learning more about how sunlight can shift its position, before gathering a small sample to return to Earth.

The $800-million OSIRIS-REx mission was named a finalist for NASA's New Frontiers mission class in 2009, along with a mission to study Venus (Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE) and the moon (MoonRise). It was chosen as the winning proposal in 2011.

New - Frontiers - Program - Series - Medium-class

The New Frontiers program is a series of medium-class spacecraft missions that are intended to help us better understand the solar system. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission chosen; the previous selectees were New Horizons, which flew by dwarf planet Pluto in 2015, and Juno, which arrived in orbit around Jupiter in 2016.

On Aug. 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided that Pluto wasn't a planet anymore. Instead, Pluto is now officially classified as a dwarf planet along with four other confirmed dwarf planets in the outskirts of the solar system. This decision sparked outrage around the world, and the controversy is still very much alive today. Astronomers in favor of Pluto's demotion argued that a planet by definition should have cleared its orbit around the sun. Pluto and the more distant dwarf planets fail to meet this criterion. If Pluto were to keep its planetary status, those dwarf planets would also need to be classified planets. While astronomers continue to debate this new definition, the public has come together to defend Pluto's title. For now, Pluto will just have to be the king of the dwarf...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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