NASA is gearing up to launch an asteroid mining mission in 2016

nasa planning an asteroid grabbing mission osirisrex3
NASA
For a government agency who consistently sees its budget take hits year over year, NASA has somehow managed to launch a lot of new and exciting space missions over the last decade. With extremely positive results stemming from missions like New Horizons and the Mars Curiosity rover, NASA’s next exploration project aims to tackle one of the hottest topics facing the final frontier: asteroid mining. However, while proponents of this futuristic style of mining can’t help but see dollar signs when they hear the phrase, NASA intends to explore a near-Earth orbiting asteroid with hopes of learning more about the early Solar System.

Set to launch in September of 2016, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission plans to launch towards the near-Earth orbiting asteroid Bennu, and intends to reach it by August of 2018. Not only does the carbon-rich Bennu potentially harbor elements of our early Solar System, but it’s also expected to contain many of the molecules responsible for life on Earth and in Earth’s oceans. Moreover, scientists estimate Bennu’s current path has a small chance to intersect with Earth via collision sometime in the 22nd Century. NASA hopes OSIRIS-REx’s study of the asteroid can assist it in the future on a potential impact mission should Bennu indeed get close enough to Earth.

Like any expedition through space, OSIRIS-REx’s journey is not intended to be a short one. After reaching Bennu in 2018, the NASA plans to survey the asteroid for nearly a year, taking note of any asteroid plumes, natural satellites, and a list of the best possible sample extraction sites. Once OSIRIS-REx successfully extracts a sample — this would take place in mid-2019 — it would then begin its long journey home, utilizing a window during 2021 when its orbit with Earth is the most ideal. NASA then expects the craft’s sample container to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on roughly September 24, 2023, some seven years after its initial departure. It seems NASA is a big fan of good things coming to those who wait.

In recent weeks, the OSIRIS-REx mission has passed critical steps toward its planned launch as the cameras designed to photograph and map Bennu have been delivered for installation. Designed and built by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite is comprised of a small telescope used for taking photos from nearly 1.2 million miles away, a MapCam which searches for dust plumes on Bennu, and a SamCam which examines the taken sample.

To make the mission even more enthralling, NASA put together an interactive website detailing each and every planned step for the OSIRIS-REx. From its launch window in September of 2016 to its eventual return in 2023, the space agency leaves no stone unturned and gives fans an incredibly up-close and personal look. Though the obvious downside to the mission is the fact we won’t see the fruit of this expedition for another seven years, it’s incredibly captivating to see NASA continue to outdo itself nearly every year.

Emerging Tech

It’s no flying car, but the e-scooter had a huge impact on city streets in 2018

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Self-driving cars, ocean exploration, and holiday shopping

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discussed the first self-driving car service in Phoenix, an expedition heading to the bottom of the world's oceans, and talked to Liz Dunn from Pro4ma about holiday shopping trends.
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Giveaways

Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.
Emerging Tech

An A.I. cracks the internet’s squiggly letter bot test in 0.5 seconds

How do you prove that you’re a human when communicating on the internet? The answer used to be by solving a CAPTCHA puzzle. But maybe not for too much longer. Here is the reason why.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

Warm ski beanie instantly hardens into a head-protecting helmet upon impact

Wool hats are way more comfortable than hard helmets. You know what they're not? Safer. That could soon change, thanks to an innovative new ski beanie which instantly hardens upon impact.
Deals

Take to the skies with these 5 drones on sale for under $50

On the hunt for some cool tech for under $50? We've rounded up 5 drones under $50 that you can still get before Christmas. These models are great for kids, adults, and anyone just getting started with drones.
Emerging Tech

With this robotic garage, retrieving your car is like using a vending machine

Remembering where we parked our cars can be a real pain. But what if our cars came to find us, rather than the other way around? A new automated robot parking valet system aims to help.
Cars

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…