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NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission marks Canada's first participation in an asteroid sample return. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft travelled back to Earth from asteroid Bennu, where its Canadian lidar instrument created a 3D map to help scientists select a sample site. On , it released the capsule containing the asteroid sample, which parachuted down to Earth. Canada will receive a portion of the material.

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

Sample collection: 
Arrival of sample on Earth: 
Arrival of sample in Canada: 
No earlier than
An artist's rendition of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, details about the OSIRIS-REx mission are presented

Text version - OSIRIS-REx: The Mission - Infographic

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 studied asteroid Bennu, collected a sample and returned it to Earth. Canada's OLA instrument can be seen firing an orange beam at 0:29. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Canada's role

Canada has contributed technical and scientific expertise to the OSIRIS-REx mission. The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) provided OLA (OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter), a lidar system able to scan the asteroid from up to 7 km away, and supports:

How the mission worked

The seven-year mission consisted of several phases:

This series of images was taken during the Touch-and-Go sample collection at the Nightingale site. Without landing, the robotic arm on board collected a sample that has been returned to Earth. (Credits: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Arizona)

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 scanned 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 was equipped with a heat shield and parachutes to keep the asteroid sample intact as it entered 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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