## Countdown Is on for OSIRIS-Rex
*by Young Reporter Aidan Frye, Sonoran Science Academy*
Every year, the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, LPL, has a Summer Science Saturday. The latest one took place on Aug. 27. Among the endless activities, you could learn about tree rings, meet planetary artists, launch a paper rocket and even do alien DNA testing! The main theme of the event was the pre-launch celebration of OSIRIS-REx, the first NASA asteroid sampling mission. Participants could watch demonstrations on how the samples will be collected, make asteroid and spacecraft models, and even send a post card to the OSIRIS-REx team!
The event had informative panel discussions, lectures and presentations with various important members of the mission.
One of those members, Bashar Rizk, is in charge of the cameras. When asked about the most exciting part of the mission, he agrees with Michael Nolan, an asteroid scientist. They both are hopeful for, “The surprise of finding something that you never expected to find.”
OSIRIS-REx is an ACRONYM for the plans for the mission! O stands for origins, SI stands for spectral interpretation, RI stands for Resource Identification, S stands for security. REx stands for Regolith Explorer that will document the surface material on the asteroid, Bennu. The mission will “expand our knowledge of the hazards and resources of near-Earth space and serve as a precursor to future asteroid missions.”
The mission will take pictures and collect samples of the asteroid. The three cameras will see small particles, check if the sample collection was successful or not, and map the asteroid while taking color pictures. The mission must bring back a minimum of 60 grams of samples, up to a maximum of 2 pounds. The sample will be used to find more about the universe. Part of the sample will be used exclusively by the UofA. Part of the sample can be requested by other groups. The rest will be saved for future research. The collection is scheduled for the year 2020 and it will be returned in 2023.
The OSIRIS-REx will be launched using an Atlas V rocket. It has one booster rocket for propulsion. The program was limited to lighter rockets, which limited the size of the spacecraft. The rocket has been passing its tests with flying colors, which Bashar jokingly said usually means it will malfunction two minutes before launch. During the panel discussion, it was said that the launch is scheduled during hurricane season in Florida, so what could go wrong? If things go as planned, the launch will happen on Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. Arizona time from Cape Canaveral in Florida.