Getting hit by a giant asteroid can ruin your whole day, so the first United States mission to visit an asteroid and return a sample presents a huge challenge. Lockheed Martin has announced that NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has passed a comprehensive technical review, giving the green light for Lockheed to begin building the spacecraft in anticipation of a launch in 2016.
NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission took a step closer to reality on Wednesday, as the OSIRIS-REx project was cleared for development and testing. Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission passed a series of detailed project assessments and now goes on to the development phase. The Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security REgolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is intended to rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu (1999 RQ36) in 2018, carry out an extensive survey, and return a 2-ounce (60 gm) sample of its surface to Earth in 2023.