Keynote Speaker

Dr. Dante Lauretta

Principal Investigator, OSIRIS-REx Mission
Regents Professor, Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry, University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

Dante Lauretta is principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission and a regents professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. His research interests focus on the chemistry and mineralogy of asteroids and comets, and he is an expert in the analysis of extraterrestrial materials, including asteroid samples, meteorites and comet particles.

Dr. Lauretta fosters the advancement of the next generation of scientists, engineers, and other space leaders through mentorship and taught coursework which apply his expertise in planetary science and spacecraft mission design &implementation. Dr. Lauretta heads the OSIRIS-REx research team at UArizona working on this mission, which has included more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students. This project will help ensure that the University of Arizona remains at the forefront of planetary exploration for the next decade.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Mission

The OSIRIS-REx mission was selected in 2011. The spacecraft launched in September 2016 and began its journey to Bennu, a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid. The spacecraft rendezvoused with Bennu in 2018 and successfully obtained a sample in October 2020. The spacecraft embarked on its return voyage to Earth on May 10, 2021. On Sept. 24, 2023, the spacecraft will jettison the sample capsule and send it onto a trajectory to touch down in the Utah desert. Sample analysis will continue until 2025. These samples will be the first for a U.S. mission and may hold clues to the origin of the solar system and the organic molecules that may have seeded life on Earth.

The University of Arizona leads the mission for NASA and will provide sample analysis laboratories for the returned samples. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides overall mission management. Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. United Launch Alliance built the mission’s Atlas V launch vehicle. The mission is in an exciting phase right now as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues its return journey to Earth.