mission and The Planetary Society
invite people from around the world to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard a spacecraft headed to the asteroid Bennu in 2016.
The "Messages to Bennu!" microchip will travel to the asteroid aboard the agency's Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft. Led by the University of Arizona, the robotic mission
will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid. The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule in 2023.
The OSIRIS-REx mission comes with the largest grant ever awarded to the UA. The endeavor is budgeted for more than $800 million, plus the launch rocket, which is supplied by NASA. For the first time in space exploration history, a university will send a spacecraft to return pristine samples of a carbonaceous asteroid with known geologic context. Such samples are critical to understanding the origin of the solar system, Earth and life, according to Dante Lauretta
, a professor in the UA Department of Planetary Sciences
and the principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission.
The returned sample also will provide insight into the future exploration of asteroids for resources and economic development, and the data collected at the asteroid will aid in the threat assessment of future asteroids that are headed towards Earth. The UA leads the mission, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
provides project management, and Lockheed Martin
builds the sampling mechanism and spacecraft.
"I'm thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth. To Bennu and back!" Lauretta said. "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch in 2016".
Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, said: "Through this campaign, we'll put your name aboard a spacecraft that will travel to an asteroid and back, making you an active participant in humankind's exploration of the Solar System. How cool does that sound? At the Planetary Society, our mission is to engage the citizens of Earth in space exploration and the Messages to Bennu! campaign fits right in with this belief."
Participants who "like" the mission on Facebook
will receive updates on the location of the spacecraft from launch until sample return and be kept abreast of mission progress and late-breaking news.
Those who submit their names to the Messages to Bennu! campaign will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission. This campaign runs until Sept. 30.
To submit your name to the Messages to Bennu!
campaign, visit The Planetary Society's campaign website