NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V boosted NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, onto a path to the asteroid Bennu. Shortly after the spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle, controllers on the ground received welcome news from orbit: the spacecraft’s solar panels had deployed and it was healthy.
“The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is happy and healthy,” said Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager for Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. “We started the journey with a phenomenal launch on the Atlas V, it delivered us right where we needed to be, separated where we said we would – and since then, it’s been knocking out milestone after milestone.”
“Tonight is a night for celebration – we are on the way to an asteroid,” said Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist. “We’re going to be answering some of the most fundamental questions that NASA works on.”
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Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett