Planetary Radio • Jan 02, 2019

A Mission to Earth: OSIRIS-REx

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On This Episode

20181030 Vicky Hamilton

Vicky Hamilton

Leader of the OSIRIS-REx Spectral Analysis Working Group and Deputy OTES Instrument Scientist

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Bill Nye

Chief Executive Officer for The Planetary Society

Bruce betts portrait hq library

Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

Why do so many spacecraft that are headed across our solar system turn their instruments back to Earth during flybys? OSIRIS-REx was no exception. The answers come from mission scientist Vicky Hamilton. She has also written about the topic in The Planetary Report. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye helps us ring in the new year, while Bruce Betts leads the first What’s Up of 2019 with exciting news about the night sky.

OSIRIS-REx MapCam view of Earth, just after flyby
OSIRIS-REx MapCam view of Earth, just after flyby OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam looked at the Pacific Ocean through color filters just hours after the flyby when Earth filled its field of view. The photo was taken on 23 September 2017 at 00:03 from a range of 179,000 kilometers.Image: NASA / GSFC / UA / Björn Jónsson
OSIRIS-REx PolyCam view of Earth just after flyby
OSIRIS-REx PolyCam view of Earth just after flyby When MapCam could see all of Earth, the higher-resolution PolyCam saw just a part of Earth. This image shows parts of Canada’s Northwest Territories, including Great Bear Lake right of and below center. High clouds cast shadows, blurring the distinction between cloudy skies above and snow-covered surface below. The photo was taken on 22 September 2017 at a range of 161,000 kilometers.Image: NASA / GSFC / UA / Björn Jónsson

This week's question:

Is 2014 MU69 or “Ultima Thule” a binary, a contact binary, or none of the above? (No one will know till after New Horizons sends back higher resolution images!)

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, January 9th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

In their current orbits, which object gets farther from the Sun at some point, Pluto or 2014 MU69?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the December 19th space trivia contest question:

How many orbits did Apollo 8 complete at the Moon?


Apollo 8 made 10 orbits of the Moon before returning to Earth.