NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission launches


NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission launches
The probe’s collected samples will return to Earth in 2023.
The $1 billion space probe is set to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to the Earth.
Launched atop a 19-story Atlas V rocket on Thursday, the spacecraft, which was developed by Lockheed Martin, is part of NASA’s ongoing New Frontiers Program which also included New Horizons, which visited Pluto, and the Juno probe which reached Jupiter earlier this year.

It will take around two years for OSIRIS-REx to reach its destination, the asteroid Bennu, before spending the next 505 days mapping the space rock in unprecedented detail.

Once a suitable site has been picked, the probe will use a robotic arm to collect samples from the asteroid’s surface before sending them back to the Earth inside a small capsule.

The mission will help to provide us with a better understanding of the formation and evolution of the solar system while also offering a close-up look at an asteroid which astronomers believe could end up on a collision course with the Earth within the next 200 years.

“We need to know everything about Bennu – its size, mass and composition,” said planetary scientist Professor Dante Lauretta. “This could be vital data for future generations.”