NASA launches spacecraft to intercept asteroid

Cape Canaveral:NASA on Thursday evening launched a space probe called OSIRIS to chase down a dark, potentially dangerous asteroid called Bennu. The probe will take a sample of the asteroid and — in a US space first — bring the sample back to Earth.

“NASA did it again!” Jim Green, Planetary Science Division director at NASA, said at a post-launch briefing.

“Tonight is a night for celebration,” said Eleen Stofan, NASA chief scientist. “We are on our way to an asteroid.”

OSIRIS-REx lifted off at 7:05 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. NASA tweeted, “Our @OSIRISREx spacecraft is on its way, and everything is on the timeline …”

Mission managers said the launch was flawless, the spacecraft is in excellent health and that the mission is hitting all its early milestones.

“The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is happy and healthy,” said Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft.

The mission’s principal investigator, Dante Lauretta, said the next big moment for him will be seeing Bennu for the first time from OSIRIS-REx.

“Everyone on the team has some image in their mind of what Bennu is going to look like and it’s going to be phenomenal to see what it really looks like.”

Those images should start arriving in about two years as OSIRIS-REx approaches Bennu.


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