NASA picks up a piece of asteroid
A NASA spacecraft was able to touch down on the rugged surface of the Bennu asteroid, grabbing a sample of rocks dating back to the birth of our solar system to bring home.
The minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft extended its 11-foot (3.35 m) robotic arm toward a flat patch of gravel near Bennu’s north pole and plucked the sample of rocks.
The probe will send back images of the sample collection so the scientists can examine how much material was retrieved and determine whether the probe will need to make another collection attempt.
If a successful collection is confirmed, the spacecraft will journey back toward Earth, arriving in 2023. Japan is the only other country to have already accomplished this.
Bennu, located over 100 million miles from Earth and whose acorn-shaped body formed in the early days of our solar system, could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.
The spacecraft launched in 2016 from Kennedy Space Center for the journey to Bennu. It has been in orbit around the asteroid for nearly two years preparing for the “touch and go” maneuver.
Did you know?
Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life.