How Asteroid Hunters are Solving Earth's Greatest Mysteries

Join Dante Lauretta, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, for an enthralling journey over 200 million miles and 20 years in the making. With captivating animations and actual footage of the capsule landing, Dr Lauretta unveils the challenges, surprises, and triumphs of collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu and bringing it safely, immaculately, back to Earth. And now that it’s here, glimpse some of the early, unprecedented insights into our cosmic past and the potential for life beyond our planet. 

Dante Lauretta is a Regents Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona's Lunar & Planetary Laboratory and the director of the new Arizona Astrobiology Center. He is an expert in near-Earth asteroid formation and evolution, and the leader of NASA's OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return mission. OSIRIS-REx is the United States’ premier mission to visit one of the most potentially hazardous near-Earth Asteroids, survey it to assess its impact hazard and resource potential, understand its physical and chemical properties, and return a sample of this body to Earth for detailed scientific analysis. 

The spacecraft launched in September 2016 and began its journey to carbon-rich near-Earth asteroid, Bennu. OSIRIS-REx rendezvoused with Bennu in 2018, obtained a sample in October 2020, embarked on its return voyage to Earth on May 10, 2021, and successfully released the sample return capsule which landed September 24, 2023. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. 

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