LPL Newsletter for May 2022

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Last week, we heard the fantastic news that the OSIRIS-REx mission has been approved by NASA for a seven-year extension after it drops off its sample return capsule at Earth next year. As you can read below, the extended mission, which will be known as OSIRIS-APEX will visit the near-Earth asteroid Apophis, reaching the asteroid just after it completes a very close pass of Earth in 2029. As an interesting factoid, two of the three co-discoverers of the asteroid,  Roy Tucker and David Tholen, have LPL connections. The spacecraft will orbit the asteroid for 18 months, studying the target with the spacecraft's array of onboard sensors. The extended mission will be led by LPL Assistant Professor Dani DellaGiustina, who first started working on the mission as an undergraduate in 2005! The NASA committee that reviewed the extended mission proposal deemed it “arguably the most imaginative extended mission proposal of recent [times]”. We are very proud of Dani and the mission team for this wonderful accomplishment.

This month’s newsletter also reports on a creative research program envisioned by Daniel Apai to test atmospheric carbon removal by a technique that relies on algae. This work comes on top of his impressive research programs on exoplanets, brown dwarfs, and the design innovative space telescopes.

In inside-LPL news, our effort to transform the Kuiper Building library into a more useful and modern collaborative space is picking up speed. After careful review we discarded hundreds of journal volumes that are now available online. This has opened up a large swath of space that we will utilize for graduate student study and collaboration. We are hoping to replace the library carpet and make other improvements over the summer, an effort that is supported in part by some generous donations.

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Director and Department Head
Artist illustration of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft firing thrusters near the surface of the asteroid Apophis. Heather Roper

NASA Approves OSIRIS-REx Extended Mission to another Asteroid

Led by LPL Assistant Professor Daniella DellaGiustina, OSIRIS-APEX will study the near-Earth asteroid Apophis for 18 months. Apophis will make a close approach to Earth in 2029.

Astrobiologist Daniel Apai (right) and biosystems engineer Joel Cuello (left) work with algae in the lab.

UArizona Researchers are Harnessing the Power of Algae to Capture Carbon

Professor Daniel Apai (LPL/SO) leads the Atmospherica team, which aims to harness the power of coccolithophores to mitigate the worst effects of climate change by storing and trapping carbon dioxide.