Seven years after the OSIRIS-REx mission launched, a capsule containing rocks captured from the asteroid Bennu in 2020 will land in Utah on Sunday morning.
Today marks the final step of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched in September 2016, as a small capsule containing a sample of the asteroid Bennu descends through the Earth’s atmosphere, landing in the Utah desert for NASA to collect and analyze. This is similar to the method used to collect particles from a comet with the Stardust mission that dropped off a sample in Utah in 2006.
The audacious mission flew the spacecraft to a small, near-Earth asteroid named Bennu and attempted something that hadn’t been done before by orbiting the asteroid, getting close enough to scrape up some material and collect it, and then returning to Earth with the sample. NASA TV will stream coverage of the sample return on its YouTube channel starting at 10AM ET today.
After OSIRIS-REx launched, it employed a slingshot maneuver to sweep around the earth and use its gravity to fling it towards Bennu — you know, like the time The Enterprise whipped around the sun to go back in time and save the whales in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. OSIRIS-REx collected even more than the 60 grams of Bennu material NASA was aiming for when it made the scoop in 2020 before starting its trip back to Earth in 2021.
Follow along here for all of the updates about the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return.