LITTLETON, Colo., July 9, 2015 — Two of five optical instruments that will be part of a NASA mission to an asteroid have been turned over to Lockheed Martin Corp. for integration into the Origin Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx).
Led by the University of Arizona, OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission designed to fly to an asteroid for research then return to Earth. The mission will allow scientists to investigate the composition of material from Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid thought to contain evidence from the early solar system. The team hopes to find the molecular precursors to life and the oceans.
Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, with a relatively high probability of striking the Earth in the late 22nd century. The team said it is important to study this object for its physical and chemical properties in case an impact mitigation mission needs to be planned in the future.
The first device, the Thermal Emission Spectrometer, will conduct surveys to map mineral and chemical abundance while taking the asteroid's temperature. It will provide spectral data for global maps used to assess potential sample sites. Thermal IR spectral data will be recorded every 2 seconds, with the instrument able to detect temperature with an accuracy of 0.2 °F. It will also detect the prevalence of minerals on the asteroid's surface.
The OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) will measure visible and near-infrared light from the asteroid Bennu, which can be used to identify water and organic materials. Courtesy of NASA/GSFC/Bill Hrybyk.
The second instrument, the Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS), will measure visible and near-infrared light from the asteroid that can be used to identify water and organic materials. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., built the instrument.
The other optical instruments set for installation onto the craft include a camera suite, a laser altimeter and an x-ray imaging spectrometer.
"The next few months will be very busy as we begin integrating the instruments and prepare for the system-level environmental testing program to begin," said Mike Donnelly, OSIRIS-REx project manager at NASA.
OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to launch in September 2016, reach the asteroid in 2018 and return a sample of at least 2.1 ounces to Earth in 2023.
For more information, visit www.asteroidmission.org.