The University of Arizona

OSIRIS-REx and Planetary Society Launch 'Messages to Bennu' Campaign

January 15, 2014
When the OSIRIS-REx asteroid arrives at asteroid Bennu, it will study the asteroid from a distance before swooping down and grabbing a sample. On board of the spacecraft will be the names of everybody participating in the "Messages to Bennu!" campaign. (Image: NASA/GSFC/UA)
When the OSIRIS-REx asteroid arrives at asteroid Bennu, it will study the asteroid from a distance before swooping down and grabbing a sample. On board of the spacecraft will be the names of everybody participating in the "Messages to Bennu!" campaign. (Image: NASA/GSFC/UA)

Members of the public are invited to submit their name to be carried aboard the OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft for a round-trip voyage to asteroid Bennu and back to Earth.

A computer-generated illustration shows the likely shape of Bennu, a pristine carbonacous asteroid measuring about a third of a mile across. Bennu is the target of the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission . (Image: NASA/GSFC/UA)
A computer-generated illustration shows the likely shape of Bennu, a pristine carbonacous asteroid measuring about a third of a mile across. Bennu is the target of the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission . (Image: NASA/GSFC/UA)
NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission and The Planetary Society invite people from around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.
 
The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft. Led by the University of Arizona, the robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid. The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule in 2023.
 
The OSIRIS-REx mission comes with the largest grant ever awarded to the UA. The endeavor is budgeted for more than $800 million, plus the launch rocket, which is supplied by NASA. For the first time in space exploration history, a university will send a spacecraft to return pristine samples of a carbonaceous asteroid with known geologic context. Such samples are critical to understanding the origin of the solar system, Earth and life, according to Dante Lauretta, a professor in the UA Department of Planetary Sciences and the principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission.
 
The returned sample also will provide insight into the future exploration of asteroids for resources and economic development, and the data collected at the asteroid will aid in the threat assessment of future asteroids that are headed towards Earth. The UA leads the mission, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center provides project management, and Lockheed Martin builds the sampling mechanism and spacecraft.
 
"I'm thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth. To Bennu and back!" Lauretta said. "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch in 2016".
 
Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, said: "Through this campaign, we'll put your name aboard a spacecraft that will travel to an asteroid and back, making you an active participant in humankind's exploration of the Solar System. How cool does that sound? At the Planetary Society, our mission is to engage the citizens of Earth in space exploration and the Messages to Bennu! campaign fits right in with this belief."
 
Participants who "like" the mission on Facebook will receive updates on the location of the spacecraft from launch until sample return and be kept abreast of mission progress and late-breaking news.
 
Those who submit their names to the Messages to Bennu! campaign will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission. This campaign runs until Sept. 30.
 
To submit your name to the Messages to Bennu! campaign, visit The Planetary Society's campaign website.

 

Contacts

For OSIRIS-REx:

Dante Lauretta
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory
520-626-1138
lauretta@lpl.arizona.edu

For The Planetary Society:
Bruce Betts
520-621-2456
bruce.betts@planetary.org