NASA has begun preliminary testing of its Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS REx) deep-space asteroid spacecraft after it had arrived in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center.
The spacecraft, which originated from Lockheed Martin’s Denver, Colorado facility, went for a 1,600 mile ride aboard a United States Air Force C-17 cargo airplane originating from Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado and arrived in Florida on May 20th.
The OSIRIS REx mission will be a first-of-its-kind mission in which NASA will attempt to send the spacecraft 509 million miles away from Earth to an asteroid known as Bennu.
Once there, the mission will attempt to grab samples of the surface of the asteroid, and then head right back to Earth so that scientists can observe the samples that were taken.
OSIRIS REx is scheduled to be launched in September of this year aboard a powerful United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket, which means NASA has less than six months to complete their testing and get the spacecraft prepared for a long space journey.
It would take two years to get to the asteroid, which lays in the outskirts of the asteroid belt, and then the spacecraft with try to rendezvous with it. Bennu, which is a relatively rare B-class asteroid, is suitable for orbit and having something drop down and grab a surface sample. After the sample is grabbed, OSIRIS REx would return to Earth by 2023.
Researchers hope that taking samples of the asteroid will help us to better understand the origins of our solar system, as B-type asteroids are thought to hold clues about formation of larger spatial bodies.
Source: Lockheed Martin, Facebook