After traveling through space for more than 2 years, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived on Monday at its destination, asteroid Bennu.


NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe (“Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer” ) sidled up to its diamond-shaped target, the near-Earth asteroid ‘Bennu’, ending a deep-space chase that lasted 27 months and covered more than 2 billion kilometers (1.25 billion miles).

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona.
This series of images taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft shows Bennu in one full rotation from a distance of around 50 miles (80 km). The spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the thirty-six 2.2-millisecond frames over a period of 4 hours and 18 minutes.

The main goal of the $800 million OSIRIS-REx mission involves snagging a sizeable sample of asteroid material and returning it to Earth.

With the arrival at the asteroid, the next phase of the mission now begin. The probe will now begin to map the surface of the asteroid in order to figure out the best place to land and snag some of Bunnu’s composite material.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona.
This picture shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s view of Bennu during the final phase of its journey to the asteroid. From August 17 through November 27, 2018, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera imaged Bennu almost daily as the spacecraft traveled 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km) toward the asteroid. The final images were obtained from a distance of around 40 miles (65 km). During this period, OSIRIS-REx completed four maneuvers slowing the spacecraft’s velocity from approximately 1,100 mph (491 m/sec) to 0.10 mph (0.04 m/sec) relative to Bennu, which resulted in the slower approach speed at the end of the video.

The asteroid sample return from Bunnu is exciting to scientists because it offers a rare glimpse of not only how our solar system was born 4.5 billions years ago but also how our planet was created. OSIRIS-REx will return to Earth in 2023.

When the probe will head back toward its home planet. The asteroid sample will touch down in Utah, tucked inside a special return capsule. Researchers in labs around the world will then pore over the space stuff with a variety of high-tech gear — big and expensive equipment that could never have fit aboard the probe.