OSIRIS-REx is a NASA funded space mission to an asteroid. It may sound a little like a Hollywood movie blockbuster, but it's actually real project based at the University of Arizona. Now at Flandrau Science Center you can step inside the science behind the mission.
At the hands-on exhibit visitors can go on their own asteroid quest. While families are flying through virtual space, UA scientists are busy building a spacecraft that will bring a piece of space rock back to Earth.
"We want to go back and look at the early formation of the solar system. And the best way to do that is to look at something that witnessed the formation of the solar system over four billion years ago." says Program Coordinator Ross Dubois.
While the surface of the Earth is constantly changing due to plate tectonics, the asteroid remains relatively unchanged since its formation. That could tell scientists how our own solar system, Earth, and even life formed over billions of years.
The mission is scheduled to launch in 2016. In the meantime NASA is asking you to suggest a name for the asteroid.
Dubois says the asteroid is currently called "1019551999RQ36 which is just a designation, not really a name. We discover so many asteroids. We know of 500,000 asteroids. We can't name every single one of them. We only name things that are interesting. Well, an asteroid is interesting if you are going to it."
The naming contest closes on December 2nd. Submit your suggestion at this Name That Asteroid Contest link.