CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft circling an ancient asteroid 200 million miles away is about to reach out and make contact.
The Osiris-Rex spacecraft will attempt to descend to the boulder-packed surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday and snatch a handful of rubble. It will be America’s first crack at collecting asteroid samples for return to Earth, a feat accomplished so far only by Japan.
Scientists want to bring back at least 2 ounces worth of Bennu — about a handful’s worth. The spacecraft can touch down no more than three times to grab enough rubble.
The samples won’t arrive on Earth until 2023.