NASA will air a live event from 16:45 to 17:15 UTC (11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST) to highlight the arrival of the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission. You can watch on NASA TV, Facebook Live, Ustream, YouTube and NASA Live. NASA TV also will air an arrival preview program starting at 16:15 UTC (11:15 a.m. EST).
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: The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with its targeted asteroid, Bennu, on Monday, December 3, 2018, at approximately 17:00 UTC (noon EST).
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 Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.