NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission Relies on Rowan Prof

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission Relies on Rowan Prof

GLASSBORO, N.J. - On Sept. 8, 2016, NASA launched OSIRIS-REx into space, and now, more than a year later, a South Jersey native is helping with the research during and after the mission.

“I’m the mission sample scientist," said Dr. Harold Connolly, Jr., a professor, and chair of the Department of Geology at Rowan University and co-investigator and mission sample scientist for OSIRIS-REx a NASA Sample Return Mission.

"So, my job on the mission is being a member of the science executive council that overlooks and manages all the science for the entire mission.”

Just over a year since liftoff, the mission has hit an important milestone called E.G.A., Earth Gravity Assist.

“You use the gravity of a planet, in this case Earth," said Connolly, Jr.

"It flew back, took pictures of Earth. We got a little slingshot that will put us into a new orbit around the sun that puts us directly in the orbit of asteroid Bennu."

OSIRIS-REx is expected to reach Bennu by next August.

“My team generates two of the four maps that are going to be used to locate a spot on the asteroid to collect the sample and bring it back safely,” said Connolly, Jr.

And lucky for his students at Rowan University, they’ll have a chance to get in on the action.

“Students can also be involved in counting rocks and pictures and these kinds of things that we need to have help doing," said Connolly, Jr.

"So, they’ll be able to help actually perform research that will help the mission."

After two years at the asteroid, the trip back home to Earth begins once the sample is retrieved. It’s expected to return in 2023, from there, the sample will be curated at the Johnson Space Center.  

“For the first six months, my team is the only people that will be working on that sample," said Connolly, Jr.

"We will be constructing a catalog, helping curation to find a catalog of samples, and we’ll be analyzing the sample at the Johnson Space Center and other remote locations."

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Date Published: Monday, October 2, 2017 - 15:15
Source URL: SNJ Today