The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) established a national policy to protect the environment by requiring Federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on the human environment prior to implementation and to give the public the opportunity to participate in the planning process. NASA is in the process of preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) to consider the potential environmental effects of the proposed OSIRIS-Rex mission. The EA is being written to fulfill NASA's obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Council on Environmental Quality's (CEQ) regulations implementing NEPA (40 CFR Parts 1500-1508), and NASA's Procedures for Implementing NEPA (14 CFR 1216.3).
The Proposed Action is to implement the OSIRIS-REx mission. NASA proposes to launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on a mission to gather asteroid material and return samples to Earth for study. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36, study it in detail, and bring back a sample (at least 60 grams or 2.1 ounces) to Earth.
Asteroids are leftovers formed from the cloud of gas and dust -- the solar nebula -- that collapsed to form our sun and the planets about 4.5 billion years ago. As such, they contain the original material from the solar nebula, which can inform us about the conditions during our solar system's birth. The asteroid sample will help us investigate planet formation and the origin of life, and the data collected at the asteroid will also aid our understanding of asteroids that can impact Earth. The OSIRIS-REx mission has been designed to gather information that cannot be fully attained solely through Earth-based observation of asteroids.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft would be launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in September 2016 on an Atlas V class launch vehicle. After traveling two years, OSIRIS-REx would approach the primitive, near Earth asteroid designated 1999 RQ36 in October 2018.
Once in a position within three miles of the asteroid, the spacecraft would begin comprehensive surface mapping, using a variety of instruments to study the asteroid. Using the information gathered while in orbit around RQ36 a sample site would be selected and samples would be taken using a robotic arm. The samples would be stored in a sample return capsule. Upon the completion of its sample collection and investigation of asteroid RQ36, the OSIRIS spacecraft would return to Earth and release the sample return capsule for a landing at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) in September 2023. Only the sample return capsule is intended to return to Earth. The spacecraft would perform an avoidance maneuver so that it does not return to Earth.
The OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule would be recovered and taken to NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, for processing and analysis at a dedicated curation and research facility. NASA's Planetary Protection Officer has assigned a preliminary categorization of "unrestricted Earth return" for the OSIRIS-REx sample, meaning the sample is safe to return to Earth.
The OSIRIS-REx Draft EA was made available for public review. Interested parties
were invited to submit comments on the Draft EA by January 2, 2013.
Comments were accepted via electronic mail to: email@example.com
Comments were also accepted via postal mail addressed to:
GSFC NEPA Program Manager, Code 250
NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center
8800 Greenbelt Road
Greenbelt, MD 20771
The OSIRIS-REx Draft EA was available for review at the following locations:
(a) Salt Lake City Library, 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 (801-524-8200)
(b) Tooele City Library, 128 West Vine Street, Tooele, UT 84074 (435-882-2182)
Limited hard copies of the Draft EA were available by contacting Lizabeth Montgomery:
For further information contact Lizabeth Montgomery at the address and phone number indicated above.