Exploring Asteroids in Near Earth Orbit

On January 25th, after a busy day of classes, I headed over to the Earth Sciences building to attend a lecture on a very cool NASA expedition that I previously knew nothing about.

Dante Lauretta’s lecture on the OSIRIS-REx mission began with him posing a small and rhetorical question: why did the origin of life occur here, on earth? It was questions like these that prompted Dr Lauretta to become involved in what he would name the “OSIRIS” project, which we now know as “OSIRIS-REx”:



Spectral Interpretation

Resource Identification





The name was chosen for its connection to Egyptian Mythology (Osiris is the Egyptian God of the underworld) and because it sounds cool (sounds a bit like T-Rex). The Asteroid that this mission is visiting got the name “Bennu” for a similar reason: it’s the name of an Egyptian god who has taken the form of a heron. Here’s their theory on how Bennu was formed:



The OSIRIS-REx mission was officially launched in 2016 and is currently in orbit. It’s goal (in the simplest of terms) is to rendez-vous with the asteroid Bennu, analyze its surface, and retrieve some materials from the asteroid which it will bring back to earth for analysis.



Dante Lauretta received funding for this billion dollar expedition through NASA’s “New Frontiers” program, which also funded Juno and New Horizons. In a lecture on January 25th, he spoke about the 14 years that he has been working on OSIRIS-REx, including the process his team had to go through in order to receive funding.

This free lecture was an intimate look at an aspect of our world that can sometimes feel so distant (and for good reason): space. With astronauts like Chris Hadfield speaking directly to people around the world, and engaging with kids through children’s books and other means, we are given a glimpse into the incredibly complicated and endlessly fascinating world of space exploration; this talk was another example of this.



This talk was presented in part by the Pacific Museum of the Earth. The PME is located on the UBC Point Grey campus and entry is by donation. More information can be found at their website.

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