The folks at NASA are looking to get into the asteroid-sampling game later this year, and the space agency’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is closer than ever to launch. The craft arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida a couple of weeks ago, after being sent over from Lockheed Martin.
Space reports the NASA mission team is working now to fuel the craft, and taste the on-board scientific instruments, critical systems, solar panels and software. The project is pencilled in to launch on Sept. 8. The craft will then take a two-year trek to the asteroid Bennu, which scientists suspect could house water and organic molecules. But here’s the cool part: NASA hopes to take a sample from the 1,650-foot-wide asteroid and send it back to Earth in 2023.
"Delivering OSIRIS-REx to the launch site marks an important milestone — one that's been many years in the making," OSIRIS-REx program manager Rich Kuhns said in a statement. "The spacecraft has undergone a rigorous environmental test program in Denver, but we still have plenty of work ahead of us. Many on our team have temporarily moved to Florida so they can continue final processing and have the spacecraft ready for the Sept. 8 launch date."
If the mission is a success, OSIRIS-REx would be the second space mission to send back asteroid samples, following Japan’s Hayabusa probe in 2010.