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OSIRIS-REx mission team selected for space exploration award

The OSIRIS-REx is expected to collect a sample from asteroid Bennu on Oct. 20.
The OSIRIS-REx is expected to return to earth in 2023.(Arizona Board of Regents)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The NASA and University of Arizona OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission team was recently named the winner of a national award.

According to a news release, the team is slated to receive the 2022 John l. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Aard for Space Exploration from the Space Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes space exploration and space-inspired industries.

The award will be presented at the opening ceremony for the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on April 4.

Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for the mission and a University of Arizona planetary sciences professor, said this team represents the “pinnacle of human achievement.”

“Team members have diverse backgrounds, skillsets and expertise. Together, we overcame numerous challenges to successfully collect a massive sample from asteroid Bennu,” Lauretta was quoted as saying. “The best times are ahead of us, and the team is busy preparing for the analysis of these scientific treasures from outer space.”

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launched in September 2016 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and reached Bennu about two years later., reportedly breaking records for the closest orbit ever flown around a celestial body.

In October 2020, the spacecraft extended its sample collection arm and touched a clear spot in a crater in the asteroid’s northern hemisphere. The spacecraft left the asteroid, carrying a sample of dust and rock with it, on May 21. It’s expected to return to Earth in September 2023.

“The OSIRIS-REx team has raised the bar when it comes to extraordinary accomplishments in the realm of space exploration and discovery,” Space Foundation CEO Tom Zelibor was quoted as saying. “The team has laid the groundwork for forging the next generation of scientists, astronomers, geologists and more. That is historic on so many levels and further transforms the exploration of space for the betterment of all of humanity.”

University of Arizona researchers earned the John L. “Jack” Swigert Jr. Award in 2009 as part of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander team, which helped confirm the presence of water on the planet.

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