On December 9, 2013 the OSIRIS-REx mission reached a symbolic milestone. At 5:43 pm MST/7:43 pm EST our countdown to launch began – marking 999 days to the opening of our launch window. Starting the countdown clock carries a lot of symbolism for us. After December 9, we will have a constant reminder of the time remaining to send OSIRIS-REx on his quest to return a sample from asteroid Bennu.
A lot of activity has to happen in these 999 days. At our peak, over 400 people will be working to make OSIRIS-REx a success. This team will be working long hours to hit our next set of milestones – the Critical Design Reviews – culminating in the Mission CDR on April 1 – 9, 2014. After this date, we start building real flight hardware. The components of the flight system come together at the Lockheed-Martin facility in Littleton, Colorado. Starting in May 2015 – after the System Integration Review – we begin the process of assembling all the components into a functioning spacecraft. After a series of environmental tests, designed to demonstrate the OSIRIS-REx can operate in the space environment, we will ship the spacecraft down to the launch site in Florida in May 2016. The launch window opens on September 3, 2016.
The OSIRIS-REx team used the 999-day milestone to kick off a new public engagement campaign. Our primary goal is – to make OSIRIS-REx the public’s mission.
We used the internet to help define the best way to reach out to the general public. The Reddit community played a major role in shaping our strategy – thanks in large part to responses to our AskReddit thread. Reddit users told us the following:
- Introduce the “characters” of the mission
- Communicate the engineering of the mission
- Allow internet users to contribute their talent
- Communicate our achievements in a way that is relatable and easy to understand
- Produce media to entertain and educate people about the mission
- Provide opportunities for Citizen Science and direct Public Engagement
The OSIRIS-REx team took this advice to heart. Our new social media strategy rolled out with the following initiatives:
- Start of this blog – dslauretta.com
- Launch of a new website – asteroidmission.org
- Production of our 321 Science video series highlighting key science themes
- Roll out of our new mission logo – with merchandise available at www.osirisrexstore.com
- New Facebook and Twitter feeds
- Hosting of a Reddit Ask Me Anything
There are many ways to become part of this mission. Join us on this amazing journey into the Asteroid Frontier!