NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft briefly touched down on asteroid 101955 Bennu and unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This ancient rock is currently more than 200 million miles from Earth, and the materials collected will give insight to the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago. Read more for a video and additional information.
At approximately 1:50 p.m. EDT, OSIRIS-REx fired its thrusters to nudge itself out of orbit around Bennu, extended its 11-foot sampling arm, and transited across Bennu while descending about a half-mile toward the surface. After 4-hours, the spacecraft executed the “Checkpoint” burn, the first of two maneuvers to allow it to precisely target the sample collection site, known as “Nightingale.” Tuesday’s sample collection event is officially called “Touch-And-Go” (TAG) and primordial cargo will start its journey back to Earth in March 2021.
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This amazing first for NASA demonstrates how an incredible team from across the country came together and persevered through incredible challenges to expand the boundaries of knowledge. Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.