TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Scientists at the University of Arizona will be hard at work Friday morning, Sept. 22, as they complete an important milestone for OSIRIS-REx, a NASA mission run by the university.
Team members will gather at the Drake Building near downtown Tucson for a movement that will be critical for the overall mission's success.
"In real-time the instrument teams and the operations engineers will be looking at the data. The images will be coming down and our image processing group will be working very aggressively to get our images processed, so we can share them with the public in the coming days," said Heather Enos, deputy principal investigator for the mission.
The spacecraft will fly by Earth and get a "gravitational assist." Think of it as a sling-shot motion, allowing the spacecraft to speed up and propel into space.
The spacecraft will then continue on its $1 billion mission to collect a sample from an asteroid named Bennu.
OSIRIS-REx was launched about one year ago, and will reach its destination in fall of 2018. It will then return to Earth with a sample of Bennu in 2023. Scientists hope to learn more about the asteroid.
Enos said Friday's movement is a major step for the mission.
"A major milestone for the OSIRIS-REx mission. It is our final activity that will actually put us into the orbit plane and onto our final path to Bennu our asteroid destination. It is an incredibly big milestone for the team," she said.
Click here to learn more about the OSIRIS-REx mission.
NASA scientists held a Reddit forum on Thursday, Sept. 21, to answer questions about the mission. Click here to view the conversation.