Forecasters are giving the historic launch tonight of the OSIRIS-REx mission an 80 percent chance of being favorable, with the only concern lingering Cumulus clouds.
The launch mission execution forecast says sea breeze-related showers are expected in the early afternoon, but there is a low chance of thunderstorms disrupting the mission.
Winds are expected to be light at 11 to 17 mph.
The landmark journey is being made to better understand the creation of the solar system. The launch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. tonight from Cape Canaveral with a window open through 9 p.m.
It is the first U.S. mission to collect and return a sample of an asteroid – chunks of space rock that NASA scientists say are the building blocks of the universe and clues to Earth’s origin.
There is an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions for the launch, with Cumulous clouds being the primary concern.
“We want to go to one of the most primitive asteroids we can find because it’s like a time capsule,” said Amy Simon, a planetary scientist with NASA Goddard. “We can find out if it had the building blocks of life. We want to get to a really pristine, old place.”
University of Arizona Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta agreed.
“This is really a treasure of information about the history of our solar system that will not only solve the scientific questions we are asking today but those we will be asking into the future,” said Lauretta, who is a professor with the school’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. “Asteroid Bennu is a time capsule from the earliest stages of solar system’s evolution.”
Bennu wasn’t discovered until 1999. It is believed asteroids like Bennu may have seeded the Earth with “the organics that life formed from, as well as the water needed,” according to Carl Hergenrother, a staff scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.