Today at 12:52 p.m. eastern time, an old friend will drop by to say hello—and get a firm push in the right direction before it heads on its merry way. It can’t stay too long. It has an important errand to run for us. But then, unlike many of our other spacey friends, it will (hopefully) come back.
OSIRIS-REx (a.k.a. Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) is stopping by to pick up an extra boost from Earth’s gravity. That will help get it on track to visit the asteroid Bennu, which it will approach in August 2018.
But don’t worry: even though we don’t get to go with OSIRIS-REx on its journey, the spacecraft hasn’t forgotten about us. It will send back pictures and notes along the way. And in the end, it’s even going to bring us back a souvenir! The next time that OSIRIS-REx gets this close to Earth it will be on a course to fall into the harsh (but loving) embrace of the Utah desert, carrying with it a sample air-blasted off Bennu’s surface.
NASA has ground-based telescopes on alert to watch for the spacecraft as it passes by on Friday. But anyone with a telescope and a good view can try to spot the spacecraft for themselves—and share any images captured with NASA.
A few spotters have already caught a glimpse of OSIRIS-REx heading our way.
NASA is encouraging people everywhere to get in on the fun, and post pictures of themselves waving hello to OSIRIS REx as it drops by. If you’d like to join in, post pictures to Twitter and Instagram with the tag #HelloOSIRISREx.