The ‘Asteroid Hunter’ Leading The OSIRIS-REx Mission

Ever since we learned that an asteroid slammed into Earth, wiped out the dinosaurs, and changed the course of life on this planet, scientists have wondered if it could happen again. It turns out there is an asteroid, called Bennu, that has a very small chance of colliding with our planet in the year 2182. 

But beyond that, Bennu could hold information that would help unlock our solar system’s secrets, like how it began and where life originated. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission launched in 2016 to collect a sample from Bennu. It was successful, and this past fall, the spacecraft safely delivered its asteroid sample to scientists waiting on Earth.

In a new memoir, The Asteroid Hunter: A Scientist’s Journey to the Dawn of our Solar System, Dr. Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx, gives readers a behind-the-scenes account on this high-stakes mission.

Ira talks with Dr. Lauretta, a planetary scientist at University of Arizona in Tucson, about why he chose to study Bennu, what it was like to run such a nail-biting mission, and what Bennu could reveal about our galaxy.

Science Friday