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

e on the asteroid will emit or absorb a unique combination of infrared wavelengths, creating a specific signal in the spectrometer that will be used to identify it. Goddard will provide one of the spectrometers, the Visible to Near-Infrared spectrometer, and Arizona State University will provide the other, called the OSIRIS Thermal Emission Spectrometer.

The mission will also feature a more precise and accurate LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) instrument. This instrument will bounce laser pulses off the surface of the asteroid to measure its topography. The OSIRIS Laser Altimeter will be provided by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, and funded by the Canadian Space Agency.

Once the asteroid has been completely analyzed from orbit, the science team will pick the location to take a sample. OSIRIS-REx will be gradually brought closer to the site, and an arm with a sampling mechanism at the end will be extended to touch the surface and collect the sample.

The sample will be stored in a capsule and returned to Earth, slowing its final descent through the lower atmosphere with a parachute like the successful Stardust capsule that returned samples of comet Wild 2 on January 15, 2006.

"Like the Moon rocks from the Apollo missions, samples of RQ36 will keep on giving. They'll be analyzed for decades after mission is complete, using new techniques we can't even imagine now, to test new theories of how we came to be," said Nuth.

OSIRIS-REx was one of three proposals selected by NASA on December 29, 2009 for more study under its New Frontiers program. NASA Goddard received $3.3 million for a 12-month study to develop the concept in more detail, called the "Phase A Concept Study Effort". After the detailed mission concept studies are completed and reviewed, NASA will select one of the three to be built. The selected mission must be ready for launch no later than December 30, 2018 and must
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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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