NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to collect samples that could better explain our solar system’s formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.Asteroids are remains formed from the cloud of gas and dust of the solar nebula. So they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can tell us about the conditions of our solar system’s birth.OSIRIS-REx will approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2020 and the spacecraft will begin six months of complex surface mapping.
RQ36 is approximately 1,900 feet in diameter or roughly the size of five football fields.The mission will measure the “Yarkovsky effect” for the first time. The effect is a small push caused by the sun on an asteroid, as it absorbs sunlight and radiates that energy as heat. Also OSIRIS-REx will help improve RQ36’s orbit to determine its trajectory and develop future strategies to reduce possible Earth impacts from celestial objects.