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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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NASA Aims to Grab Asteroid Dirt in 2020
25 May 2011 5:39 pm
Today NASA announced the next medium-class science mission to explore the solar system. The winner of a three-way competition is a mouthful: Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). It is a spacecraft that would scoop as much as 2 kilograms of rocky soil off a 600-meter-diameter asteroid in 2020 and return the sample to the Utah desert in 2023 for laboratory analysis. While strictly speaking a science mission to better understand the nature and origins of a primitive solar system building block, OSIRIS-REx dovetails nicely with President Barack Obama's plans to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025.
Costing roughly $1 billion, OSIRIS-Rex would launch in 2016 and spend 6 months mapping asteroid 1999 RQ36. Living up to all the ambitions of its official name, OSIRIS-REx would explore the origins of asteroids and thus the solar system itself, connect spectral colors observable from Earth to specific minerals on the asteroid, identify potential resources such as water for rocket fuel, help evaluate the threat of asteroids to Earth, and return some regolith (asteroid soil) for detailed analysis.
Two fields of planetary science took serious hits with today's announcement of the competition results.
A mission to explore the surface and atmospheric geochemistry of Venus was the best hope of U.S. scientists wishing to return to Earth's sister planet for the first time in decades. And a mission to return a sample from the moon's largest impact crater would have been some comfort to lunar scientists still smarting from Obama's decision to redirect NASA's crewed space exploration from the moon to near-Earth asteroids.