After traveling through space for more than two years and over two billion kilometers, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at its destination, asteroid Bennu, today (Monday, December 3, 2018).
OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) launched in September 2016 and has been slowly approaching Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey the surface, collect a sample and deliver it back to Earth. The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the asteroid with the goal of selecting a location that is safe and scientifically interesting to collect the sample.
That asteroid sample is expected to return to Earth via free fall from space, until it reaches an altitude of 20.8 miles (33.5 km), when a first parachute will deploy. At 1.9 miles (3 km), the main parachute will be released, bringing the capsule with its precious cargo from Bennu in for a soft landing in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023.
Bottom line: After traveling through space for more than 2 years, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived December 3, 2018, at its destination, asteroid Bennu.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as an EarthSky.org Editor, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She and her husband live in Tennessee, where they enjoy guitar playing and singing. They have 2 grown sons.