U of A and NASA looking at asteroid headed for Earth - Tucson News Now

U of A and NASA looking at asteroid headed for Earth

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The University of Arizona won an $800 million contract from NASA to go to an asteroid.

The OSIRIS-REx project will take a sample from Asteroid 1999RQ36 which scientists hope unlocks the origins of life on Earth, but that's not all.

"It actually has the highest probability of any object to hit the Earth in the year 2182," OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Michael Drake explained.

It's clearly not an eminent threat and not the main focus of the mission, but it's something NASA and U of A scientists are looking for from OSIRIS-REx.

Drake told KOLD News 13, "To understand how we'd actually mitigate against a dinosaur type ending impact. We don't want to go the way of the dinosaurs."

So to avoid that scenario, NASA and the U of A will send OSIRIS-REx to the asteroid and collect samples to get us some much needed asteroid answers.

"In spite of Bruce Willis, we do not know how to deflect these things. We will learn scientifically the properties we need to decide how to deflect them," Drake said.

While they try to figure out how to send the asteroid in another direction, scientists believe this mission is just the beginning.

Peter Smith, a scientist on the mission said, "It's the precursor to human missions to an asteroid and how exciting would that be. Can you imagine being tethered to your spacecraft and floating over to the asteroid and picking up samples."

Hard to believe we watched the Hollywood version 13 years ago and in another 13 we could know more of the real life story.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

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