NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission was launched in September 2016, and seven years later, its capsule landed in the Utah desert for NASA to collect and analyze its first-ever samples collected from an asteroid. Now, NASA scientists are ready to show off what it collected and share what they found out during their first tests.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson presented the first pictures of the samples, saying that tests show “samples that contain abundant water in the form of hydrated clay materials” within the “biggest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever returned to Earth.”
The audacious mission flew the spacecraft to a small, near-Earth asteroid named Bennu and attempted something that hadn’t been done before by orbiting the asteroid, getting close enough to scrape up some material and collect it, and then returning to Earth with the sample.
Follow along here for all of the updates about the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return.
Oct 13NASA just launched its next mission to an asteroid.
Yes, NASA just revealed preliminary results from the OSIRIS-REx mission that snagged material from the asteroid Bennu, but this morning, it successfully launched Psyche, an orbiter that will attempt to visit an asteroid of that name, which was the 16th one discovered, on March 17th, 1852.
Oct 11NASA shows off the first images and data from its new asteroid samples.
During a press conference on October 11th, NASA administrators and scientists showed off the initial results from their analysis of the sample capsule returned from the OSIRIS-REx mission that grabbed bits of the asteroid Bennu and brought them back to Earth last month.
While the larger rocks in the craft’s Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) have yet to be evaluated, here are a few images from the livestream showing what they’ve found in the canister lid and base around the TAGSAM.
NASA completed its first-ever sample return mission from an asteroid today, with a science capsule containing material from an asteroid landing after having traveled on a 1.2 billion-mile journey from the asteroid Bennu. The capsule was released from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft as it passed by Earth this morning, entering the atmosphere at around 27,000mph.Read Article >
The OSIRIS-REx mission, launched in 2016, has collected as much as several hundred grams of asteroid material, which could help scientists understand the earliest stages of the Solar System.
- The OSIRIS-REx capsule is in the bag.
NASA reports that the OSIRIS-REx capsule “has been bagged” and is flying suspended from a helicopter to the space agency’s clean lab to recover samples gathered from the Bennu asteroid in 2020.
When it gets to NASA’s on-site clean room, scientists will remove the canister containing the sample to be opened at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on Tuesday.
Check out this gallery of screenshots from NASA’s live coverage. NASA had a photographer on site, so we’ll probably get some much nicer shots of the process soon.
- NASA is now recovering the capsule containing the Bennu asteroid sample.
Team members have also placed flags in the area to note potentially interesting environmental samples to collect in the area around the capsule for later examination.
- OSIRIS-REx is safe for approach.
Lockheed Martin crew checked it for dangerous heat, off-gassing, and unexploded ordinance at the site of the capsule to make sure it poses no danger to the team recovering the OSIRIS-REx samples.
They’ve now declared it safe to approach, so NASA will now prepare to pick it up.
- The OSIRIS-REx capsule has been located.
The OSIRIS-REx helicopter team has confirmed the location of the capsule containing the Bennu asteroid sample. The capsule touched down at about 10:52AM ET.
The first helicopter has landed and the team is beginning recovery of the capsule as soon as they can verify there is no danger of injury from unexploded ordinance.
- The OSIRIS-REx capsule has touched down.
The “time capsule to our ancient solar system” from the OSIRIS-REx mission has officially touched down in the Utah desert.
NASA’s live coverage notes it landed about three minutes sooner than expected. The team is now heading to it with helicopters to begin the process of gathering the samples.
- What’s next for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft?
Apophis will miss the Earth by about 20,000 miles in 2029 — that’s closer than our own Moon.
OSIRIS-APEX will study the gravitational effects of the close pass on “the asteroid’s orbit, spin rate, and surface.”
May 10, 2021
The NASA spacecraft that snatched a sample of rocks from the distant Bennu asteroid last year fired up a suite of thrusters on Monday and committed to its two-year journey back home. The maneuver kicks the minivan-sized spacecraft, dubbed Osiris-REx, onto a winding cosmic path around the Sun and toward Earth’s orbit. When it returns to Earth in 2023, it’ll toss a capsule packed with asteroid samples through the atmosphere somewhere over Utah.Read Article >
The spacecraft’s Asteroid Departure Maneuver (ADM) was no sweat for the Osiris-REx team, but it marked a significant step towards the return of the first pristine cache of asteroid samples in NASA’s history. Spacecraft engineers inside a Lockheed Martin center in Littleton, Colorado confirmed the seven-minute thruster firing began at 4PM ET Monday and celebrated success shortly after.
Oct 29, 2020
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully stored a small cache of rocks that it grabbed from the surface of an asteroid named Bennu last week, sealing the pebbles inside the vehicle’s belly. The asteroid particles will now remain inside the spacecraft over the next three years, as OSIRIS-REx makes its way back to Earth.Read Article >
OSIRIS-REx grabbed the sample on October 20th of last week, more than four years after launching from Earth on its mission to touch an asteroid. Using a thin robotic arm, the vehicle lightly tapped the asteroid Bennu, stirring up rocks on the surface and pushing some of the pebbles up into the spacecraft.
Oct 23, 2020
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft did its job a little too well on Tuesday, when it tried to scoop up a handful of rocks from an asteroid named Bennu more than 200 million miles from Earth. The vehicle actually grabbed too much material with its robotic arm, jamming the lid at the end of the arm open — and letting part of the asteroid sample escape out into space.Read Article >
“We were almost a victim of our own success here,” said Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission at the University of Arizona, in a press conference.
Oct 21, 2020
NASA shared astonishing images of its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touching an asteroid yesterday, revealing how the vehicle stirred up rocks and debris on the object’s surface when it made contact. The goal of the tap was to collect a sample of material from the asteroid, but the engineers behind the spacecraft say they won’t for sure if they collected anything until this weekend, when they spin the vehicle and measure how much material is inside.Read Article >
However, the OSIRIS-REx team feels confident that they got something. “Bottom line is from analysis of the images that we’ve gotten down so far, is that the sampling event went really well, as good as we could have imagined it would,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, said during a press conference. “And I think the chances that there’s material inside... have gone way up way up based on the analysis of the images.”
This afternoon, a NASA spacecraft more than 200 million miles from Earth successfully touched the surface of an asteroid, in an attempt to grab a handful of pebbles and dust from the space rock. Data from the spacecraft confirmed that the vehicle did indeed touch the asteroid today, but NASA won’t know until tomorrow if it actually snagged a sample of material.Read Article >
“Touchdown declared,” a mission controller announced when the team received data confirming the maneuver. “Sampling in process.” The news of the success was met with cheers and applause from engineers following along with the procedure.
This afternoon, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will grab a small sample of rocks from the surface of an asteroid named Bennu zooming through space more than 200 million miles from Earth. It’s an ambitious task, but if it works, OSIRIS-REx may eventually return to Earth with the largest sample of material from another space body since NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon.Read Article >
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been circling Bennu for the last two years, mapping its surface and hunting for the right spot to snag these rocks. After an intense amount of planning from the mission team, the engineers have a target all picked out on Bennu and are ready to send their spacecraft down to the surface. OSIRIS-REx will lightly touch the surface of Bennu with an extended robotic arm, which will then blast air onto the rocks and stir things up. The blast should send pebbles and dust up into the arm. The rubble will then be stored inside the spacecraft for the long journey home.
Oct 19, 2020
Tomorrow, a US spacecraft more than 200 million miles from Earth will sneak up to an asteroid larger than the Empire State Building and snag a handful of rocks from its surface. If all goes to plan, the spacecraft will store the precious cache of rocks inside its belly, and will eventually transport the materials to Earth, where they can be studied by scientists in a lab.Read Article >
The spacecraft stealing these rocks is called OSIRIS-REx, part of the first-ever NASA mission tasked with returning samples of an asteroid back to Earth. Launched in September of 2016, OSIRIS-REx spent two years traveling to an asteroid named Bennu. Since it arrived in 2018, the spacecraft has been circling the asteroid and mapping it in excruciating detail, in order to find just the right spot to scoop up a sample.
Apr 20, 2020
Last Tuesday, a team of engineers sat huddled around their computer screens, monitoring a spacecraft as it maneuvered around a rocky asteroid more than 140 million miles from Earth. They were conducting an important interplanetary dress rehearsal, running the spacecraft through many of the operations it will do in August when it attempts to snag a tiny sample of rocks from the asteroid’s surface. This dress rehearsal has been in the works for years, and the team had expected to be gathered together for it in a mission center in Colorado.Read Article >
Instead, most of them kept tabs on the event from home. “It was a skeleton crew that was supporting the event in person, compared to what was originally planned,” Mike Moreau, deputy project manager for the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, tells The Verge. “More than three-quarters of the team was doing it from home and monitoring remotely.”
Dec 12, 2019
Next year, NASA plans to scoop up a small batch of dirt from an asteroid named Bennu, located millions of miles from Earth — and now the agency knows which part of the space rock it’s going to steal from. Today, the space agency announced that one of its spacecraft will attempt to grab some particles from a 20-meter-wide crater, called Nightingale, on the asteroid.Read Article >
Engineers picked the Nightingale site from four final candidate spots on Bennu, arguing it could be the best place to find organic material and water on the asteroid that may hail from the earliest days of the Solar System. “This one really came out on top, because of the scientific value,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the asteroid sampling mission, said during a press conference announcing the selection. However, targeting the crater is not without risk. The area is surrounded by a large wall of rocks, which could make it difficult to grab a sample. But ultimately, Lauretta said the area could have what they’re looking for.
Jun 17, 2019
NASA’s asteroid-sampling spacecraft OSIRIS-REx just snapped its closest picture yet of Bennu, the deep-space rock it’s been hovering around since the end of last year. The high-resolution image highlights the object’s very rocky surface and even showcases a very large boulder on its southern half.Read Article >
OSIRIS-REx took this up-close picture on June 13th, right after the spacecraft inserted itself into orbit around Bennu for the second time. The vehicle first got into Bennu’s orbit on December 31st, 2018, flying about a mile away from the asteroid’s surface. From that path, OSIRIS-REx mapped Bennu’s surface in intricate detail, and also observed some interesting things from this vantage point, including rocks spewing from Bennu’s surface.
Mar 19, 2019
NASA spacecraft discovers its target asteroid is spewing material and is much more rugged than expected
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made an astonishing discovery about the asteroid it has been orbiting since December: the rock is actively spewing material out into space. The asteroid, named Bennu, has ejected materials up to 11 times since the spacecraft has been there. But no one is sure what exactly is causing these bursts.Read Article >
The revelation is just one of many surprises that scientists have learned about Bennu, ever since OSISIR-REx reached the asteroid late last year. Launched in 2016, OSIRIS-REx is tasked with eventually grabbing a sample from Bennu and then returning it back to Earth, to help scientists better study asteroids — remnants of the early Solar System. But before that happens, the OSIRIS-REx mission team is trying to learn as much as it can about the asteroid using the spacecraft’s instruments.
Dec 10, 2018
Long before it struck out on its own, a distant, small asteroid called Bennu had a wet, watery start, according to new evidence just announced by NASA.Read Article >
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which arrived at Bennu on December 3rd after a two-year journey, is currently positioned about 12 miles above the surface of the asteroid. It recently sent back data indicating that the asteroid’s surface is littered with clay-like minerals that indicate that parts of this space rock had liquid water at some point in its distant past.
Dec 3, 2018
Today, one of NASA’s deep-space probes, OSIRIS-REx, arrived at the space rock it’s been traveling toward for the last two years, an asteroid named Bennu. At noon ET, OSIRIS-REx came within about 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the asteroid, which is closer than ever before. The arrival means that OSIRIS-REx is now starting a new phase of its mission that entails extensively mapping the surface of the asteroid to find the best place to grab a sample of material.Read Article >
“We have arrived!” Javi Cerna, the OSIRIS-REx telecom engineer at Lockheed Martin, jubilantly proclaimed on NASA TV when the mission team received word that the spacecraft had made it to the asteroid. The announcement was followed by cheers and applause by the team members at the Denver headquarters of Lockheed Martin, the company that built the spacecraft.
Aug 25, 2018
NASA’s asteroid-sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, has captured its very first images of the deep-space target it’s currently hurtling toward — a nearly half-mile-wide space rock orbiting the Sun named Bennu. It’s a big step for the vehicle as it prepares for its arrival at the asteroid in December of this year.Read Article >
Since the picture was taken from so far away — at a distance of 1.4 million miles — Bennu appears as just a few pixels of light moving across space. But for the OSIRIS-REx team, it shows that their spacecraft is on the right track and that Bennu is right where they expected. “Many of us have been working for years and years and years to get this first image down,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson, said during a press conference on Friday.