Designed to return a sample as large as two kilograms, the mission is likely to bring back the largest sample of alien rock since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully launched from Cape Canaveral with the help of 1.2
million pounds of thrust provided by an Atlas V rocket. The spacecraft will journey to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu and return an asteroid sample back to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx will need to fly toward Bennu at 12,000 mph and then pump the brakes to less than 0.5 mph to intercept the asteroid. Then, a relatively large sample will need to be collected in the tricky environment of microgravity. If that sample gets contaminated by anything the spacecraft brought from Earth, or from something else it encounters before it can be delivered to a clean room for analysis, the mission is compromised. So, OSIRIS-REx must go above and beyond to protect that sample, especially during the intense return through the Earth’s atmosphere.