TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - An idea born in Tucson is about to be bolted to a rocket and fired into space.
University of Arizona scientists designed the ambitious mission to orbit an asteroid, grab a sample, and bring that sample back to Earth.
Now the probe called Osiris Rex just arrived at Cape Canaveral where it's getting ready to fly.
— OSIRIS-REx (@OSIRISREx) May 26, 2016
A huge Air Force cargo plane brought the probe from Colorado, where workers at Lockheed Martin assembled the spacecraft UA scientists designed, and added instruments built in Tucson.
Crews eased the container protecting the probe out of the plane, and onto a trailer.
Now it's in a special clean room where technicians are prepping it for the rocket ride to an asteroid named Bennu.
Osiris Rex has a Twitter page written as if the probe itself is writing the tweets.
Here in Tucson, Ed Beshore is second in charge of the program.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked him: "One of the early astronauts said, 'How'd you like to be sitting on tons of high explosive supplied by the low bidder? Is that going to be tense, while you're waiting for launch and watching the launch?”
Ed Beshore: Well, you know we have a lot of confidence in the Atlas vehicle. It's got a really great track record but you can't really go forward, putting all this sweat equity that's on top of that rocket knowing that it's fully loaded with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and kerosene. That's a highly explosive combination. It has to be in order to provide all that energy to get the spacecraft on its way to Bennu. We've got to be a little nervous. We're going to be glad to see the spacecraft on its way to Bennu."
Smith asked: “What's the spirit like right now, after all this time designing the spacecraft, building it, putting it together, it's down in Florida prepping for launch?
Beshore: “I think it's anticipation at this point. We've been working for four and a half years on this project now and we're just really excited to see this get off the ground, that whole process of design and formulation and construction is just about over with and we're going to be flying a spacecraft within 30 days after launch.
It will take Osiris Rex about two years to get to Bennu. It will orbit the asteroid for about a year sending scientists information that should help them understand what could keep Bennu in a stable orbit, or throw it off course, maybe towards Earth.
Then it will ease in, grab a sample and send it back to Earth. It will be the first time scientists have been able to see a fresh asteroid sample with their own eyes, instead of through a spacecraft's sensors.
The project is expected to launch about 200 million dollars into our local economy, a lot of it from scientists who will come from all over the world.
Craig Smith asked Ed Beshore: “What's the atmosphere going to be like in here where this is chock full of scientists watching that data come in?”
Beshore: It's either going to be really quiet with everybody's head down trying to get their work processed, get their work done; or it's going to be pandemonium when new information comes in and tells us something really exciting and interesting about Bennu."
Osiris Rex is expected to be headed for Bennu September 8th.