[meteorite-list] OSIRIS-REx Will Visit Asteroid with New Name: Bennu

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 1 May 2013 08:48:47 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201305011548.r41Fml9q024370_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

May 1, 2013

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Nancy Neal Jones
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
nancy.n.jones at nasa.gov

RELEASE: 13-128


WASHINGTON -- An asteroid that will be explored by a NASA spacecraft
has a new name, thanks to a third-grade student in North Carolina.

NASA's Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource
Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft
will visit the asteroid now called Bennu, named after an important
ancient Egyptian avian deity. OSIRIS-Rex is scheduled to launch in
2016, rendezvous with Bennu in 2018 and return a sample of the
asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The name for the carbon-rich asteroid, designated in the scientific
community as (101955) 1999 RQ36, is the winning entry in an
international student contest. Nine-year-old Michael Puzio suggested
the name because he imagined the Touch-and-Go Sample Mechanism
(TAGSAM) arm and solar panels on OSIRIS-REx look like the neck and
wings in drawings of Bennu, which Egyptians usually depicted as a
gray heron. Puzio wrote the name suits the asteroid because it means
"the ascending one," or "to shine."

TAGSAM will collect a sample from Bennu and store it for return to
Earth. The sample could hold clues to the origin of the solar system
and the source of water and organic molecules that may have
contributed to the development of life on Earth. The mission will be
a vital part of NASA's plans to find, study, capture and relocate an
asteroid for exploration by astronauts. NASA recently announced an
asteroid initiative proposing a strategy to leverage human and
robotic activities for the first human mission to an asteroid while
also accelerating efforts to improve detection and characterization
of asteroids.

"There were many excellent entries that would be fitting names and
provide us an opportunity to educate the world about the exciting
nature of our mission," said Dante Lauretta of the University of
Arizona in Tucson, a contest judge and the principal investigator of
the OSIRIS-REx mission. "The information about the composition of
Bennu and the nature of its orbit will enable us to explore our past
and better understand our future."

More than 8,000 students, all younger than 18, from more than 25
countries worldwide entered the "Name that Asteroid!" contest last
year. Each contestant submitted one name with a maximum of 16
characters and a short explanation for the name.

The contest was a partnership with The Planetary Society in Pasadena,
Calif.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory
in Lexington, Mass.; and the University of Arizona. The partners
assembled a panel to review the submissions and submit a top choice
to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Committee for Small
Body Nomenclature. The IAU is the governing body that officially
names a celestial object.

"Bennu struck a chord with many of us right away," said Bruce Betts,
director of projects for the Planetary Society and a contest judge.
"While there were many great entries, the similarity between the
image of the heron and the TAGSAM arm of OSIRIS-REx was a clever
choice. The parallel with asteroids as both bringers of life and as
destructive forces in the solar system also created a great
opportunity to teach."

The Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Program survey team
discovered the asteroid in 1999, early in NASA's Near-Earth Objects
Observation Program, which detects and catalogs near-Earth asteroids
and comets.

"The samples of Bennu returned by OSIRIS-REx will allow scientists to
peer into the origin of the solar system and gain insights into the
origin of life," said Jason Dworkin, an OSIRIS-REx project scientist
at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Goddard will provide overall mission management, systems engineering,
and safety and mission assurance. The University of Arizona is the
principal investigator institution. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of
Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in
NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in
Huntsville, Ala., manages New Frontiers for NASA's Science Mission
Directorate in Washington.

For more information on OSIRIS-REx, visit:


For information about the contest, visit


For more information about NASA's other asteroid-related missions,

Received on Wed 01 May 2013 11:48:47 AM PDT

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