MIT’s REXIS is bound for asteroid Bennu

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 23:31 in Astronomy & Space

An SUV-sized spacecraft, loaded with instruments and an extendable robotic arm, will soon be barreling toward a space rock, on a round-trip journey that promises to return an unprecedented souvenir: extraterrestrial soil, taken directly from an asteroid, that could hold clues to the very early universe. This evening, at about 7:05 p.m. EDT, NASA’s first-ever asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx, (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer), will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft embarks on a two-year, 120-million-mile haul, at the end of which it will reach the asteroid 101955 Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid that is thought to be a cosmological “time-capsule,” composed of remnants of the early universe. The spacecraft will spend some time remotely analyzing the asteroid’s surface using a suite of instruments, including REXIS, (Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer), an instrument designed and built by more than 50 MIT students. The spectrometer will analyze the interaction...

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