Build your own spacecraft with the OSIRIS-REx papercraft kit

Build your own spacecraft with the OSIRIS-REx papercraft kit

By Logan Burtch-BuusUniversity Communications
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The OSIRIS-REx papercraft project was developed by the University of Arizona, NASA and David Landis, a papercraft artist.
The OSIRIS-REx papercraft project was developed by the University of Arizona, NASA and David Landis, a papercraft artist.
The papercraft kit includes instructions and information about the real-life tools necessary for such groundbreaking science, many of which were designed by University scientists.
The papercraft kit includes instructions and information about the real-life tools necessary for such groundbreaking science, many of which were designed by University scientists.

More than seven years ago, NASA sent OSIRIS-REx on a brave journey to a distant asteroid called Bennu. After years of snapping photos, devising maps and collecting samples, our friend is finally on its way home – and will soon fly by Earth to drop off a few gifts before embarking on a mission to another asteroid, Apophis.

With those gift samples in hand, scientists expect to commence decades of research investigating questions surrounding how the early solar system formed and how life began on Earth.

The excitement of OSIRIS-REx's return mission isn't limited to scientists. And neither is the fun.

Children and adults alike can get into the spirit of space exploration with the help of an OSIRIS-REx paper craft project developed by the University of Arizona, NASA and David Landis, a papercraft artist and the president and manager of Landis Productions LLC, a print, graphic and media design company based in Richmond, Virginia. He also runs Kooky Craftables, a website where users can download papercraft projects ranging from superheroes to characters from movies and video games.

A self-professed fan of all things related to space and science, Landis said he excitedly followed along as OSIRIS-REx took to the skies in 2016 and was intrigued at the prospect of creating a papercraft to celebrate the sample return.

On Sept. 24, the sample return capsule that holds the priceless rocks and dust collected from Bennu's surface is scheduled to land in the Utah desert.

"This is such a fascinating and wonderful mission, and I am proud to be a part of it," said Landis, who has designed papercrafts for companies including Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Google.

So how did OSIRIS-REx become a paper model? Landis worked with the University to identify key scientific instruments and features of the spacecraft – and then it was off to the races.

When creating a product like this one, Landis said he likes to simplify characters and objects to their base shapes to create a finished product that people of all ages and abilities can create on their own.

"Working with David Landis on the OSIRIS-REx paper model was a such a fun experience," said Carina Bennett, project manager on the OSIRIS-REx mission's sample analysis software engineering team. "Everyone worked very hard to accurately represent the spacecraft's impressive hardware and the instruments on the science deck in a fun and approachable paper form. David was able to perfectly capture OREx's personality and the feelings we all experienced during the moment of TAG (sample collection), which was pride, excitement and wonder. I'm excited for it to get into people's hands and for them to build their own little O-Rex explorer."

The final product is a Rubik's cube-size spacecraft complete with solar panels, sunshades, the sample return capsule and the robotic arm that collected the sample. Landis took some liberty with his depiction of the high gain antenna used to communicate back to mission control. He added interchangeable smiley faces to the front of the antenna to reflect the "sheer joy and happiness" he feels about space exploration.

"I love the idea of an explorer adventuring into strange new places with a sense of hope, optimism and joy on a quest for knowledge, and I really wanted to home in on that," Landis said. "These missions to expand our knowledge of space and the universe are such a joyful and wonderful thing – and that's what I wanted to capture in the papercraft itself."

The papercraft kit, which can be downloaded from the Kooky Craftables website, includes instructions, a video tutorial and information about the real-life tools necessary for such groundbreaking science, many of which were designed by University scientists.

Our friend OSIRIS-REx's paper counterpart has already made several appearances, including San Diego Comic Con and Awesome Con in Washington, D.C.

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