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Solar System: OSIRIS-REx and Bennu

Solar System: OSIRIS-REx and Bennu

Let us lead you on a journey of our solar system. Here are some things to know this week.

This week, we’re setting out on an ambitious quest: our first mission to retrieve a sample from an asteroid and return it to the Earth.

1. Take It from the Beginning


Some asteroids are time capsules from the very beginnings of our solar system. Some meteorites that fall to Earth originate from asteroids. Laboratory tests of materials found in meteorites date to before the sun started shining. OSIRIS-REx’s destination, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, intrigues scientists in part because it is thought to be composed of the primitive building blocks of the solar system.

Meet asteroid Bennu

Take a tour of asteroids in our solar system.

2. Creating the Right Ship for the Journey


At the heart of the OSIRIS-REx mission is the robotic spacecraft that will fly to Bennu, acting as the surrogate eyes and hands of researchers on Earth. With its solar panels deployed, the craft is about 20 feet (6 meters) long and 10 feet (3 meters) high. Packed into that space are the sample retrieval system, the capsule for returning the sample to the ground on Earth, plus all the hardware for navigation and communicating with home.

Explore the instruments and how they work

3. School of Hard Rocks

If you’re a teacher or a student, the OSIRIS-REx mission and exploring asteroids make for some engaging lesson material. Here are some of the things you can try.

Find dozens of lesson plans

4. Standing (or Flying) on the Shoulders of Giants

OSIRIS-REx is not the first time we have explored an asteroid. Several robotic spacecraft led the way, such as the NEAR Shoemaker probe that orbited, and even landed on, the asteroid Eros.

Meet the asteroid pioneers and see what they discovered

5. The Probability of Successfully Navigating an Asteroid Field is…Pretty High

How much of what we see in movies about asteroids is fact, and how much is fiction? This video lays out the basics. (Spoiler alert: even though there are millions of them, the average distance between asteroids in the main belt is something like 1.8 million miles, or about three million kilometers.)

+ Watch
+ See more videos that explain asteroids and the mission

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

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