Jason Dworkin, PhD
Senior Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Lecture: 28/09 (Wednesday) – 18:00 CEST
OSIRIS-REx Sample Return from Asteroid Bennu
OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s third New Frontiers-class planetary science mission. This PI-led mission, a partnership between the University of Arizona, Lockheed Martin, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, was competitively selected in May 2011, it launched in September 2016 and arrived at its target, near-Earth asteroid Bennu in December 2018. OSIRIS-REx studied Bennu with a payload of cameras, lidar, and vis/IR spectrometers to both understand this small (½ km) primitive asteroid and to select the best location to collect a sample. The sample was collected and sealed in October 2020. The spacecraft departed from Bennu in May 2021 to deliver the sample to Earth in September 2023 for decades of study by researchers worldwide. The sample will be studied to better understand the origins of the solar system and life as well as how this asteroid compares with other asteroids and the meteorites collected on Earth. The presentation will discuss the spacecraft, results from Bennu, the drama of the sampling event, and how the study of asteroids relate to astrobiology.
Jason Dworkin is the Senior Scientist for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Project Scientist for OSIRIS-REx. His objective is to assess the organic species available for the origin and early evolution of life with a focus is on understanding the extraterrestrial input and origin of molecules relevant for life. This objective has been to study increasingly documented and constrained systems, from plausibly early Earth chemistry, chemistry of astrophysically relevant laboratory ices, organic and chiral analysis of meteorites, to analysis of sample returned material and how to protect that material from contamination. This research employs modern analytical methods to examine authentic samples of the early solar system as well as laboratory models of ancient environments. This involves both directing research in the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at GSFC and scientific leadership in NASA sample return and in situ missions.