OSIRIS-REx and Planetary Society Launch 'Messages to Bennu' Campaign
NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission and The Planetary Society invite people from around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.
The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft. Led by the University of Arizona, the robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid. The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule in 2023.
The OSIRIS-REx mission comes with the largest grant ever awarded to the UA. The endeavor is budgeted for more than $800 million, plus the launch rocket, which is supplied by NASA. For the first time in space exploration history, a university will send a spacecraft to return pristine samples of a carbonaceous asteroid with known geologic context. Such samples are critical to understanding the origin of the solar system, Earth and life, according to Dante Lauretta, a professor in the UA Department of Planetary Sciences and the principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission.
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