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SWHAS Monthly Meeting Feb 2021

26th February 2021 @ 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

OSIRIS-REx: To Bennu and Back – John Maclean 

“As UK Mission Ambassador for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission to asteroid Bennu, John is in a unique position to tell you the inside story of this incredible mission. In this talk you will be introduced to the mission, including details of the mission plan, the spacecraft and scientific instruments used. You will discover how the Mission developed from an idea to a successful operation and some of the incidents and problems that arose, and how they were solved. This talk is able to provide insights directly from the mission teams and includes up to date information.” 

John Maclean FRAS (Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society)

John is an astronomer, astrophotographer and lecturer on Astronomy, Astrophysics and Planetary and Lunar Science. His main interest is in Deep Space Imaging of Galaxies and Nebulae. He is a member of the NASA Comet Ison Observation Campaign and the PACA Project which studies cometary science. He is also interested in Solar Astronomy and use special telescopes to view and image the Sun, capturing sunspots and solar flares. As a part of the S.P.A.M. Meteor Detection Network and the UK Monitoring Network I capture and analyze data on meteors that appear over UK skies.

He is also a cruise ship speaker for major cruise lines including Cunard, Viking, P&O and SAGA.

As a STEM Ambassador he helps to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to students in schools, colleges and Universities.

His background is Military, having served 25 years in the Royal Air Force specialising in Electronics, IT and Communications Satellites.

He is an agent for the important NEOShield-2 asteroid deflection project.

He is also UK Ambassador for the NASA OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission and can deliver talks about the mission for your organisation.

OSIRIS-REx Project

OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century. OSIRIS-REx will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals. In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and crewed spacecraft.


OSIRIS-REx’s key science objectives include:

  • Return and analyze a sample of Bennu’s surface
  • Map the asteroid
  • Document the sample site
  • Measure the orbit deviation caused by non-gravitational forces (the Yarkovsky effect)
  • Compare observations at the asteroid to ground-based observations


26th February 2021
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm


South West Herts Astronomical Society


Online Event
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