The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft is currently set to launch in 2016, with a projected arrival date at the asteroid Bennu in 2019. Bennu is approximately 500 meters (1760 feet) wide.
During its two year mission on the asteroid’s surface, the spacecraft will collect approximately 60 grams (2 ounces) worth of samples and send them back to Earth in a capsule. It is expected that the samples will return in 2023, but they won’t be making the journey alone. A time capsule will be accompanying the samples and NASA is asking for the public’s help to fill it.
The program is sponsored by NASA and the Planetary Society. Until September 30, they are asking the public to submit short messages and pictures via Twitter with the hashtag #AsteroidMission. The messages should be predictions about future space exploration: How will the exploration landscape look in 2023 compared to 2014? What challenges will still be present? What will we have overcome? A total of 50 images and 50 photos will be chosen to send to Bennu.
"Our progress in space exploration has been nothing short of amazing," OSIRIS-REx PI Dante Lauretta told NASA. "I look forward to the public taking their best guess at what the next 10 years holds and then comparing their predictions with actual missions in development in 2023."
If you’d like to make sure that you will be included even if your submission doesn’t get chosen, you can enter your name and have it shot out into space. Names will be etched into a microchip within OSIRIS-REx and will remain on the asteroid. Signing up will have your name included in the time capsule, and it will also be etched onto a microchip that will remain with the spacecraft. During the mission, you’ll be able to track your name as it barrels through the solar system and find its current location.