Luxembourg, 21 October 2020. – NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe unfurled its robotic arm last night and successfully touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from its surface, the U.S. space agency said.
The asteroid Bennu is currently more than 200 million miles from Earth and offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth.
On its descent to Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx probe executed two maneuvers to collect samples on the asteroid’s surface. If the sample collection, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, the mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021, NASA said. Otherwise, the mission teams will prepare for another attempt in January.
All spacecraft telemetry data indicates the TAG event executed as expected, NASA said. However, it will take about a week for the OSIRIS-REx team to confirm how much sample the spacecraft collected.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands.”