THIS WEEK @NASA: OSIRIS-REx Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample, First Private Astronaut Mission to Space Station

By  //  May 16, 2021

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ABOVE VIDEO: Samples of an asteroid are headed back to Earth, a key prelaunch milestone for the Webb space telescope, and adding a third dimension to some cool imagery … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA!

OSIRIS-REx Heads for Earth with Asteroid Sample

On May 10, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft bid farewell to near-Earth asteroid Bennu. O-REx then began its journey back to Earth, with an abundance of sample material it scooped up from Bennu last October. This image, captured in early April, is the last one taken of the asteroid by OSIRIS-REx.

After orbiting the Sun twice, the spacecraft is due to reach Earth Sept. 24, 2023.

That is when the capsule containing the sample material will separate from the spacecraft, enter Earth’s atmosphere, and make a parachute assisted landing in Utah’s West Desert.

Webb’s Mirror Opened One Last Time on Earth

For the last time, while the James Webb Space Telescope is still on Earth, the telescope’s 6.5 meter primary mirror was commanded to fully expand and lock itself into place, just like it will when it gets to space. Webb will be the world’s premier space science observatory when it launches later this year. It will help solve mysteries in our solar system, look to distant worlds around other stars beyond our solar system, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

Jurczyk Retires, Cabana Named Associate Administrator

Steve Jurczyk, who has served as NASA’s associate administrator since May 2018, and most recently filled in as acting NASA administrator, retired on Friday, May 14 after more than three decades at the agency. Former astronaut Bob Cabana will take over as associate administrator effective Monday, May 17. Cabana, who has served as director of our Kennedy Space Center since 2008, is a veteran of four spaceflights, with more than 910 hours in space.

First Private Astronaut Mission to Space Station

NASA and Axiom Space have signed an order for the first private astronaut mission to the International Space Station. Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) will launch from our Kennedy Space Center in Florida, aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, no earlier than January 2022 for an eight-day mission. Former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría is expected to serve as mission commander.

See Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Fly in 3D

Engineers at our Jet Propulsion Laboratory have created a 3D rendering of the Ingenuity helicopter’s third flight on Mars, giving viewers an opportunity to experience that April 25 flight as if they were standing on the Red Planet watching it. The images for the video were provided by the Mastcam-Z imager on the Perseverance rover. Check out for more about how to view the video, and how to create your own 3D glasses.

Viewing Storm Clouds in 3D

Scientists at our Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia have developed a way to view typical satellite imagery in 3D – which can provide a more detailed look at storm clouds, and ultimately, a better understanding of severe weather. This is a potential game-changer for researchers who study thunderstorms, but anyone with a pair of red-blue 3D glasses can experience this immersive view. Head on over to to learn more and to see weather satellite imagery like you’ve never seen it before.

That’s what’s up this week @NASA