Mission for obtaining asteroid sample gets go-ahead

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co has gained NASA'a approval for building a spacecraft to collect samples from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

Littleton, Colo.-based Lockheed Martin has announced that the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has passed NASA's comprehensive technical review, which was conducted by a board consisted of experts from the U. S. space agency and some other organizations

OSIRIS-REx project manager Mike Donnelly said that passing mission Critical Design Review (CDR) was a big achievement, but the hard part of the project was still to be accomplished.

Speaking on the topic, Donnelly said, "Successfully passing mission CDR is a major accomplishment, but the hard part is still in front of us - building, integrating and testing the flight system in support of a tight planetary launch window."

The spacecraft's rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu will last for around a year, during which time it will gather at least two ounces of samples to bring them to Earth for scientists to study.

As per the planned schedule, OSIRIS-REx will be launched in the fall of 2016. Its rendezvous with the asteroid will take place in 2018, and it will return to Earth in 2023.