The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS REx, is the latest NASA mission to be headquartered at the University of Arizona.
The first week of April, at a meeting in Denver, Colo., the team was given the official go-ahead to proceed from the design phase to the building phase. OSIRIS REx is a 14-year sample return mission designed to gather specimens from the surface of the asteroid Bennu and bring them safely back to Earth.
Scientists hope what they learn about the asteroid will tell them more about how the solar system began and how life started on Earth.
The spacecraft will launch in September 2016, and after spending a year and a half studying the asteroid, it will return the sample to Earth in 2023.
The UA’s Dante Lauretta is the principal investigator of the $1 billion project.