EOAS faculty members participate in NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission

May 16, 2022
OSIRIS-REx (credit: CSA)

Dr. Dominique Weis and Dr. Catherine Johnson

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has recently publicized Canadian institutes that will be working on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx project, a prestigious endeavor to analyze samples of the asteroid Bennu, which marks Canada's first participation in an asteroid sample return. UBC EOAS faculty members Dr. Dominique Weis and Dr. Catherine Johnson will lead their teams to participate in this mission.

Canada has contributed technical and scientific expertise to the OSIRIS-REx mission (click here to learn more). The CSA provides OLA (OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter), a lidar system able to scan the asteroid from up to 7 km away, and supports scientists and engineers on OLA's development and operations team. In exchange for providing the OLA instrument to the mission, the CSA will own 4% of the total returned sample, thus providing Canada's scientific community with its first-ever direct access to a returned asteroid sample. Researchers from around the country were selected to perform investigations that will help unravel Bennu's physical, chemical, and geological mysteries, after the sample arrival on Earth in 2023. As part of the broader OSIRIS-REx science team, Dr. Weis’ team will analyze the sample to determine its origin and history. Dr. Johnson's team has been involved in the mission for over a decade, analyzing data collected by OLA to help determine the shape of the asteroid, as well as select and characterize the sample site.