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NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission marks the first time Canada is participating in an asteroid sample return. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently travelling to asteroid Bennu, where its Canadian lidar instrument will create a 3D map to help scientists select a sample site.

Taking a closer look at carbon-rich Bennu may help answer questions about how our solar system formed and how life on Earth began.

En route to Bennu
Approach phase begins: 

An overview of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return mission. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)

Mission objectives

The OSIRIS-REx mission was designed to:

This animation provides an overview of how the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will study asteroid Bennu, collect a sample and return it to Earth. Canada's OLA instrument can been seen firing an orange beam at 0:29. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Canada's role

Canada is contributing technical and scientific expertise to the OSIRIS-REx mission. The Canadian Space Agency is providing OLA (OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter), a lidar system able to scan the asteroid from up to 7 km away, and supporting:

How the mission works

The seven-year mission consists of several phases:

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

About the spacecraft

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was assembled by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. It is about the size of an SUV and includes five science instruments that will scan the asteroid in visible, infrared, and X-ray wavelengths.

When its solar panels are deployed, OSIRIS-REx can generate up to 3,000 watts of power. Although OLA contains approximately 4,000 mechanical parts and 3,000 electrical parts, the sophisticated instrument uses only 75W – similar to a lightbulb!

OSIRIS-REx's Sample Return Capsule is equipped with a heat shield and parachutes to keep the asteroid sample intact as it enters Earth's atmosphere and to ensure a soft landing.

Data sheet

Length 6.2 m with solar panels deployed
Width 2.4 m × 2.4 m
Height 3.2 m
Length of sampling arm 3.4 m
Dry mass (unfuelled) 880 kg
Wet mass (fuelled) 2,110 kg

Mission partners

International partners:

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