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Proposed mission would return sample from asteroid 'time capsule'
Date:3/11/2010

to an asteroid's various surface materials, wobble, and rotation. There's no sure way to predict an Earth-approaching asteroid's orbit unless you can factor in how the Yarkovsky effect will change that orbit, according to the team. "It's like trying to make a complex, banking shot in a game of pool with someone shaking the table and kicking the legs," said Nuth.

"OSIRIS-REx" spells out what the mission will do. "O" stands for the scientific theme, origins, as in the origin of life. "SI" is for spectral interpretation, or taking images of the RQ36 at wavelengths that will reveal its composition. "RI," or resource identification, is surveying the asteroid for such useful resources as water and metals. "S" stands for security, learning how to predict the detailed motion of Earth-approaching asteroids. REx stands for "Regolith Explorer". Regolith is a layer of broken-up rock and dust, formed by meteorite impacts, which covers the surface of many asteroids and moons in our solar system.

If approved, the mission will be significantly more capable than the original OSIRIS proposal. "OSIRIS was a basic sample return mission," says Nuth. "OSIRIS-REx adds more instruments to give us a complete map of the surface composition and 3-D shape, or topography, of the asteroid. It will allow us to put our sample in the proper geologic context, so we'll have a much better idea of what we're really sampling," says Nuth.

Additional instruments include a mass spectrometer, which separates and identifies atoms and molecules based on their weight and electric charge. The mass spectrometer will be built at NASA Goddard.

Two infrared spectrometers will also be added. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye, but we perceive it as heat, and it can be measured by special instruments. These spectrometers will separate the infrared light into its component "colors," or wavelengths, like a prism separates white light into a rainbow. Each element and molecul
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Contact: Bill Steigerwald
William.a.steigerwald@nasa.gov
301-286-5017
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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