Canadian-made laser completes first leg of journey to space

A Canadian-made laser that will scan a distant asteroid in hopes of better understanding the early history of the solar system has taken a big step on its lengthy journey into space.

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The Canadian Space Agency-funded laser, known as OLA, will create 3-D maps of the asteroid Bennu.

The laser is part of the OSIRIS-Rex project.

In September, 2016, NASA will launch the OSIRIS spacecraft to the near-Earth asteroid. After an approximately three-year journey, the spacecraft will approach Bennu and a robotic arm will pluck at least two ounces of material from the asteroid's surface, which will be brought back to Earth in 2023 for further study.

NASA said the asteroid, which is approximately the size of six football fields, "is likely to represent a snapshot of our solar system's infancy."

The OLA arrived at Lockheed Martin Space System in Denver on Thursday, where it will be incorporated into the spacecraft.

In exchange for providing the laser, the Canadian Space Agency will receive a portion of the returned asteroid sample to be studied by Canadian scientists.

The laser mapping system was proposed by researchers at York University and built by two Toronto-area companies.

Michael Daly, an associate professor at York University and the lead scientist on OLA, said the system will measure the shape and topography of Bennu with far more efficiency than any other planetary science mission has achieved in the past.

"This information is essential to understanding the evolution and current state of the asteroid," Daly said in a statement.



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