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OSIRIS-REx Sample Capsule Safely Touches Down with NASA's First-Ever Asteroid Sample

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~ NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule touched down in the desert at 8:52 a.m. MT today, marking the first-ever asteroid sample return mission for the agency. The capsule is estimated to hold about a cup of material from Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid, which scientists hope will teach us more about the origin of organics that led to life on Earth and help us better understand planet formation.

The capsule entered the atmosphere traveling more than 27,000 mph and then gently landed in the sands of the U.S. government's Utah Test and Training Range. A specialized recovery team led by Lockheed Martin – who designed, built and currently flies the mission for NASA – comprising representatives from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Johnson Space Center, and the University of Arizona then secured the capsule.

"The landing was safe, recovery was a huge success, and we're thrilled that the next phase of this mission can now begin," said Kyle Griffin, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. "This particular sample return is monumental – scientists are about to open a time capsule with some of the earliest history of our solar system inside."

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After approaching the capsule landing area in helicopters, the recovery team carefully searched for any hazardous material, sampled neighboring soil, wrapped it in protective material and attached it for transport via helicopter to an on-site cleanroom at the range. There it will be processed for shipment on a military aircraft to curation team members at NASA Johnson in Houston Texas who will make it available for study.

In total about 60 people from NASA, University of Arizona, Lockheed Martin and range personnel took part in capsule landing and recovery efforts plus a team of about 25 engineers operating spacecraft from Lockheed Martin's Mission Support Area in Denver.

The OSIRIS-REx mission pioneered key technologies relevant to future exploration of small bodies in our solar system such as specific techniques for operating in microgravity; autonomous guidance to surface with Natural Feature Tracking; unique sample collection with reverse-vacuum Touch and Go sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) device; all which were showcased during today's successful landing.

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Following today's successful landing OSIRIS-REx will now be dubbed OSIRIS-APEX entering its extended mission phase beginning its journey to its follow-on mission target: near-Earth asteroid Apophis. To date major milestones include launching on Sept 8 2016 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station; arriving at Bennu on Dec 3 2018 where it conducted two year detailed survey; extracting sample from asteroid by "tagging" it on Oct 20 2020; departing asteroid heading back to Earth on May 10 2021.

Lockheed Martin has built more interplanetary spacecraft than all other U.S companies combined partnering with NASA to explore every planet in our solar system continuing its legacy supporting every robotic sample return mission with upcoming work on agency's Mars Sample Return program.
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