NASA selects rocket for OSIRIS-REx asteroid intercept mission
US space agency NASA has chosen the rocket that will launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft that will study and collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid.
The OSIRIS-REx - which stands for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, will launch atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral in 2016.
It will intercept the 560-metre-diameter asteroid 1999 RQ36, shown here next to the International Space Station, two years later.
There, the probe will spend up to 500 days, mapping the asteroid's surface and taking samples.
The samples will then be sent back to Earth in a heatproof container, arriving in 2023.
According to NASA, the mission will help officials understand the physical, mineralogical and chemical properties while assessing the resource potential of the asteroid.
Researchers are also hoping to use the asteroid samples to learn about the earliest stages of the solar system's evolution and what has happened to RQ36 over the past 4.5 billion years.
The spacecraft will also help NASA scientists better understand the Yarkovsky effect, where the sun's radiation alters an asteroid's orbit.
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