Science questions


Here is a list of some of the questions scientists hope to answer with the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission:

Goal: Map the asteroid

  • What is the asteroid like up close?
  • Where should we sample?

Goal: Examine the sample site and collect the sample

  • What kind of materials will we find?
  • Can we find organic (carbon-rich) materials?

Goal: Return the sample to Earth and analyze it

  • How old is the material on Bennu?
  • How much carbon and water does the sample contain?
  • What does the sample reveal about the early solar system?
  • What does the sample reveal about asteroids as sources of Earth's water?

Goal: Take measurements of the asteroid's orbit

  • Is Bennu an impact hazard to the Earth?
  • What can Bennu reveal about how asteroid's orbits change?

Goal: Compare data to telescope observations

  • Are the interpretations of telescope observations confirmed by close-up observations?

What is the Yarkovsky Effect?

OSIRIS-REx presents the new 321Science video about how sunlight can affect the orbits of small asteroids. This video explores how the Yarkovsky effect occurs and how it can change the orbits of asteroids—changing near misses to impacts or impacts to near misses. (Credit: University of Arizona)

Artist's concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching Asteroid 1999 RQ36

Artist's concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft approaching Bennu. Without landing, the robotic arm on board will scoop up a sample that will be returned to Earth. (Credit: NASA/NGSFC/UA)