A NASA spacecraft has been approved to launch in 2016 to visit a near-Earth asteroid, mission managers announced today. Dubbed OSIRIS-REx—for Origins Spectral-Interpretation Resource-Identification Security Regolith Explorer—the robotic craft will conduct the first U.S. mission to collect pieces of an asteroid and bring them back to Earth.
OSIRIS-REx was selected out of three projects under consideration for funding by NASA's New Frontiers Program, which aims to develop uncrewed spacecraft missions designed to help us understand our solar system. The two missions that did not make the cut this round were a sample-return from the far side of the moon and a trip to the surface of Venus. Both missions could be resurfaced in the next round of New Frontiers proposals.