Asteroid 1999 RQ36 is now Bennu
On May 1, NASA announced that the OSIRIS-REx target asteroid 1999 RQ36 was renamed Bennu. The name Bennu was selected from over 8,000 entries submitted to the Name that Asteroid! contest. Bennu was an important avian deity in ancient Egypt and one of the symbols of the god Osiris. Egyptians usually depicted Bennu as a gray heron. The double nature of asteroids delivering life’s molecules and sometimes bringing destruction such as the recent fall in Chelyabinsk, Russia, inspired the mission name, OSIRIS-REx, and now the asteroid’s name. Nine-year old Mike Puzio submitted the winning entry, stating,
“The winged OSIRIS-REx and its heron-like TAGSAM evoke attributes of Bennu, as does the egg shape of the asteroid itself.”
OSIRIS-REx will launch in 2016, rendezvous with Bennu in 2018, and take a sample in 2019.