NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has started its return journey after almost five years in space. The trip is expected to take 2.5 years with OSIRIS-REx currently due to reach Earth on Sept. 24, 2023. As previously reported by AVweb, the spacecraft touched down briefly on asteroid Bennu last October, successfully collecting more than 2 ounces of soil from the surface.
“OSIRIS-REx’s many accomplishments demonstrated the daring and innovate way in which exploration unfolds in real time,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA headquarters. “The team rose to the challenge, and now we have a primordial piece of our solar system headed back to Earth where many generations of researchers can unlock its secrets.”
OSIRIS-REx, which was launched on Sept. 8, 2016, will not be returning to Earth’s surface. Instead, it will conduct a fly-by to release the capsule containing the asteroid soil sample. According to NASA, the plan is for the sample capsule to enter Earth’s atmosphere and parachute to the Utah Test and Training Range. Depending on the amount of fuel remaining after delivering the sample, OSIRIS-Rex may be sent back out to visit a second asteroid.
Why not dock at the space station, drop off capsule and refuel?