NASA's announcement that they selected the University of Arizona proposal for the OSIRIS-Rex mission to visit asteroid 1999 RQ36 and return with samples is generating excitement all over the state. It was headline news in Tucson, home to UA. I was doing a briefing with the Governor's staff this afternoon and it was generating buzz in the hallways.
The official release said "NASA will launch a spacecraft to an asteroid in 2016 and use a robotic arm to pluck samples that could better explain our solar system's formation and how life began. The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, will be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth."
Remember all those science fiction stories about mining asteroids? Is this the first step?
Here's a short overview. There are longer videos on YouTube showing the mission in more detail.