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Touch-and-go: NASA's Osiris-Rex set to collect samples from asteroid Bennu

21st October, 2020 Science and Technology

Context: NASA spacecraft will attempt to collect asteroid samples for return to Earth, a feat accomplished so far only by Japan.

The Osiris-Rex mission is looking to bring back at least 60 grams worth of asteroid Bennu, the biggest otherworldly haul from beyond the moon.

While NASA has brought back comet dust and solar wind particles, it’s never attempted to sample one of the nearly 1 million known asteroids lurking in our solar system until now.

Japan, meanwhile, expects to get samples from asteroid Ryugu in December — in the milligrams at most — 10 years after bringing back specks from asteroid Itokawa.


  • It is an asteroid.
  • The big, black, roundish, carbon-rich space rock— was around when our solar system was forming 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists consider it a time capsule full of pristine building blocks that could help explain how life formed on Earth and possibly elsewhere.

What is OSIRIS-REx?

  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx will be the first U.S. mission to bring an asteroid sample to Earth. The spacecraft is currently orbiting asteroid Bennu and will spend two years mapping it before collecting a sample and returning to Earth.
  • Bennu is a potentially hazardous asteroid that could one day threaten Earth.