NASA to launch new robotic science mission to asteroid in 2016


17 Responses to “NASA to launch new robotic science mission to asteroid in 2016”

  1. Beelzebuddy says:

    Dear NASA,

    There is more than one asteroid out there, and this is undoubtedly not the last asteroid probe which will ever be launched. When the probe is designed and fabricated, please ask Lockheed to build more than one.

    Thank you.

  2. mappo says:

    Aaaah!!! Giant robotic mosquitos! Run!!

  3. Andrew Gasser says:


    Who says LockMart has to build it? That is the problem with space. We need more companies that can do these things at a better price.

    Andrew Gasser
    Tea Party in Space

    • Beelzebuddy says:

      The article says Lockheed is building it.

      But you’re right, that is one major problem – Lockheed is under no obligation to make space access one penny cheaper than their lobbyists are capable of leaching. If you wanna get pissed off, go read how their contracts are written up. Google “cost plus.”

      NASA is actually doing something about this problem, though, albeit very, very slowly. They’re currently investigating the possibility of forming a committee to discuss allocating a small fraction of current NASA funding to fixed-price contracts instead.

  4. moniker says:

    This mission seems rather dubious to me. It’s not at all clear that you get 1 billion dollars more information from sampling an asteroid directly than you get from examining meteors. Honestly, it seems like yet another NASA mission for publicity’s sake rather than doing less flashy but more valuable science.

    • Spaceman Dave says:

      I’m going to assume that by “meteor” you mean “meteorite.” We have a tremendous meteorite record that has taught us a great deal about how the solar system came to be, but it is an incomplete record in a number of ways. I’ll give three.

      First, we can’t link most meteorite types to specific asteroids, so we don’t have a lot of context when trying to make sense of the histories of individual meteorites. The established connection between the HED meteorites and asteroid Vesta is a notable exception.

      Second, most meteorites ultimately originate in the main asteroid belt, but they are not a uniform sampling of the main belt. There are only a couple of “escape hatches” that are favorable for making Earth-crossing orbits, so we don’t know how representative our meteorite samples really are.

      Third, the process of entering the Earth’s atmosphere destroys much of the fine-grained, loose outer layers of regolith (a word that more-or-less means “space dirt”) that contain valuable scientific information. The REx in OSIRIS-REx stands for “Regolith Explorer,” and a major component of this mission will be to study the delicate outer layer of the asteroid for which we have no good way of studying from meteorites.

      It will be great if the target asteroid of OSIRIS-REx turns out to be unrepresented in our meteorite collection (currently the top target candidate is Near Earth Asteroid designated 1999 RQ36, which will presumably be given a snappier name), but we will still get valuable scientific information by studying it in space and returning some samples for analysis back here on Earth.

  5. lecti says:

    Cool, it’s like Hayabusa. We need more missions like this.

  6. aelfscine says:

    They’re sending Crow T. Robot?

  7. spill says:

    “Security”? Really? For who?

  8. Drew from Zhrodague says:

    Much agreed, we do need many more missions like this. And more experiments. And more pictures. This is how we can understand our universe better.

  9. jnab says:

    And all of a sudden, I’m loving NASA again like I did back in the Apollo days. I wish the Heinleins could see this…

  10. RebNachum says:

    This is incredibly insensitive given today’s other NASA news about poor Spirit. Can’t we grieve in peace?

  11. nemryn says:


  12. bfarn says:

    I bet they could knock a bit off the price tag if they built it out of something other than slabs of solid gold…

  13. moniker says:

    Yes I did mean meteorite. Thanks for the additional information.

Leave a Reply