TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - One of UA's proudest projects just ripped by the Earth at more than 19 thousand miles per hour.
The Osiris Rex space probe -- is headed to an asteroid --- and just pulled off a critical maneuver to get there.
The space probe Osiris Rex is a project conceived, designed and managed by the University of Arizona.
The Atlas rocket that launched Osiris Rex last year pushed it to 12,000 miles an hour but the spacecraft detoured around the Sun to use its gravity to speed up even more.
Now---another key maneuver: A close pass by Earth Friday morning, to pick up more speed but mainly to use Earth's gravity to change course to its real destination: an asteroid named Bennu.
Sara Knutson is the very relieved lead engineer for the science teams.
"The days and weeks leading up to this people have been anxious and you know you've built a great instrument, we've built a great spacecraft, all of our activities that we've executed on the spacecraft so far have been very successful. There's no real reason to worry but you do. You still worry."
Passing Earth, and as it heads towards Bennu, Osiris Rex will point its cameras at us. It's a good test to make sure the cameras are adjusted just right.
There will be plenty for the team to do as Osiris Rex spends a year headed for Bennu and another almost two years orbiting and studying the asteroid.
It all leads up to a moment when the probe eases in, touches the asteroid and pulls in a sample to bring back to Earth.
Sara Knutson says, “It could give us more information about some of the materials we find here on Earth and how they got here and what the Earth may have been like before everything has changed and it is what you see today."