The Postal Service has announced it is adding a Forever stamp to its 2023 lineup to honor a NASA mission to study and map the asteroid Bennu.
According to the mission website, Bennu was chosen from the roughly 7,000 “near-Earth” asteroids because of its proximity, carbon-rich composition and relatively large size. It is also considered to have a high probability of coming into contact with Earth in the 22nd century.
A craft about the size of a large passenger van was launched into space in 2016 and is scheduled to return to Earth this September with a sample of Bennu’s surface.
The mission’s moniker — as well as the stamp’s name — is OSIRIS-REx, which is an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security — Regolith Explorer.
“Origins” refers to the study of the carbon-rich material the spacecraft collected; “Spectral Interpretation” means measuring the composition of that sample; “Resource Identification” refers to assessing potential fuel, oxygen, water and minerals on the asteroid; and “Security” relates to scientists’ calculating the odds that Bennu could collide with Earth.
The final part of the mission’s name, REx, short for “Regolith Explorer,” refers to the surface sample the spacecraft collected in 2020 and is bringing back to Earth. Regolith is a loose layer of the asteroid’s surface.
A release date has yet to be announced.