Thursday marks one year to the opening of the OSIRIS-REx launch window. For 30 minutes each day over 39 days, NASA has a chance to send this University of Arizona-led mission to outer space from Cape Canaveral, FL.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. The mission will fly to an asteroid nicknamed Bennu, collect samples, and then return to Earth so scientists can closely analyze the collected debris.
Why Bennu? According to the mission's website there are three reasons for this trip to an asteroid and back.
First, Bennu could impact Earth in the next century. Closer study of the composition may assist future scientists with plans to keep that asteroid away from Earth.
Second, "as the leftover debris from the solar system formation process that began over four billion years ago, asteroids can teach us a lot about the history of the Sun and planets. We are going to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid that records the earliest history of our Solar System. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth's oceans" according to the mission's website.
And third, there is some talk of possible future mining missions to asteroids. Knowing what asteroids of made up of in terms of economic development will help companies plan these possible missions.