Quirks & Quarks

Smash n' grab on an asteroid

OSIRIS-REx blasts off for ‘smash ‘n’ grab’ rendezvous with asteroid
OSIRIS-REx being transported from the PHSF to the VIF at Pad 41, then lifted to the Atlas V vehicle in preparation for launch. (NASA )

On Thursday, September 8th, 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft blasted off on its mission for a quick rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu. On board is a Canadian-made instrument known as OLA, short for the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter, which will help scientists navigate the spacecraft towards the asteroid. Once it gets close enough,  the lead instrumentalist for the OLA, York University researcher Dr. Michael Daly, will use his laser altimeter to map the asteroid surface. The goal is to create an accurate, highly-detailed model of the asteroid. Scientists can then use it to choose a safe site for OSIRIS-REx to go in for its "smash 'n' grab" sample, before returning home with its precious cargo. Scientists are hoping this mission will help answer big scientific questions, such as: did life or water on Earth come from an asteroid like Bennu? And what kind of material made up our early solar system?

Related Links: 

NASA's OSIRIS-REx's mission page

Canadian Space Agency's OSIRIS-REx mission page

York University celebrates successful launch of OSIRIS-REx