The asteroid 1999 RQ36 diameter of approximately 1,837.27 feet (560 metres) made headlines last week with the announcement that the space rock could hit our planet in 2182. But a handful of scientists have had their eyes on this asteroid since 2007, planning a sample-return mission designed to help us better predict—and avoid—impact hazards.
The mission, called OSIRIS-Rex (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer), is one of two finalists in the current competition for funding under NASA's New Frontiers program, up against a proposed mission to land on Venus. The selected mission will be announced in summer 2011.
If OSIRIS-Rex gets the green light, the spacecraft will launch in 2016 with the goal of mapping and bringing back pieces of the asteroid.
Asteroid Doppler Images