True Exploration

Asteroids and the OSIRIS-REx Mission

Although it sounds like the name of a prehistoric dinosaur, OSIRIS-REx is about as far from Jurassic Park as you can get.  In fact, it couldn’t be more futuristic.  OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith. Explorer – is a mission to capture an asteroid sample and return it to Earth.

Scheduled for launch in 2016, OSIRIS-REx will return the first samples ever taken from a special type of asteroid that scientists believe holds clues to the origin of the solar system.  The asteroid is a near-Earth object potentially hazardous to humanity – with a one-in-1,800 chance of impacting the Earth in the year 2182.

The asteroid is currently called 1999 RQ36, but will soon be renamed as a part of the “Name that Asteroid” contest.  The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world.  Each contestant can submit one name.  The deadline is Dec. 2, 2012.  Watch a video explanation about the contest.

The OSIRIS-REx team is led by Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  Lockheed Martin will design and build the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, asteroid sampling system and the sample return capsule at its Space Systems Company facilities near Denver.  In addition, the company will operate the flight system from its Mission Support Area from launch until the asteroid samples are returned.

This new understanding of how to rendezvous with asteroids will help with the stepping stone missions of the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle – the first interplanetary spacecraft designed to carry astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on long-duration, deep-space missions.  OSIRIS-REx will be able to explore phenomena such as the micro gravity field of a small space object, which will enable further advancements of technology for future missions, including those using the Orion vehicle.

In addition to providing important data about our solar system, the OSIRIS-REx mission will also serve as a training ground for the next generation of engineers, scientists, technologist, physicists and many others who will shape the future of true exploration.

Learn more about the OSIRIS-REx mission and Lockheed Martin’s involvement. 

In addition, be sure to download the free LM TomorrowTM app for iPad users, which features the world of asteroids and the OSIRIS-REx mission in its “True Exploration” section.  

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Lockheed Martin iPad App Explores Asteroid Mission

Exploring an asteroid can provide insight into many fundamental questions about our universe: How did our solar system form? What kinds of materials exist in our solar system? How did life evolve?

But the ultimate question in asteroid exploration is:  Will an asteroid some day end life on earth as we know it?

Lockheed Martin’s free LM TomorrowTM app for iPad users attempts to answer some of these questions in its new “True Exploration” section.