On May 25, NASA announced the selection of its third New Frontier planetary science mission. The $800-million Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission will launch in 2016 and retrieve samples from the near-Earth asteroid 1999 RQ36 in the year 2020. The samples will be returned to Earth in 2023 and provide samples of the primeval materials from which our Solar System formed.
Scott Sandford (Code SS), a member of the OSIRIS-Rex science team, will be actively involved in analyzing and interpreting the laboratory measurements on any asteroid materials, following up his important work on the cometary materials returned to Earth by the Stardust mission. More specifically, Sandford will:
(1) Test the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) air filter design, performing similar work as he did for the Stardust and Genesis missions;
(2) Serve on the Contamination Control and Assessment Team, where he will play a role in defining cleanliness standards and protocols, and will help carry out monitoring tests and archiving of materials standards;
(3) Serve on the mission team working on the design and testing of the sampling system and serve a lead role in the upper surface sampler element;
(4) Once the spacecraft encounters the asteroid, he help operate the two IR spectrometers and analyze their data, and will assist with the sample site selection;
(5) Serve on a team that will plan and execute the recovery of the SRC when it returns to Utah, and work with the JSC curation folks to prepare for the arrival of the samples;
(6) Lead the Organics subteam of the Preliminary Examination Team, which will have ~18 months to study the samples before they are formally turned over to the curator’s office.
In addition to these key science roles, Ames will provide arcjet testing and aerothermal analysis to re-certify the design and heatshield for OSIRIS-Rex, which is based on the earlier Stardust design.