OSIRIS-REx made history last fall when it touched down on the asteroid Bennu, and now, the NASA spacecraft is on its way back to Earth with some souvenirs from the trip.
OSIRIS-REx started the two-year journey back home on Monday, carrying rubble it collected from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid believed to be as tall as the Empire State Building and 4.5 billion years old. This was NASA's first mission to try to get a piece of an asteroid, and principal scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona told The Associated Press it is estimated that OSIRIS-REx is holding between half a pound and a pound of rubble — much more than the goal of two ounces.
The spacecraft was launched in September 2016, and orbited Bennu for two years, sending back "new and exciting images and data," Lauretta said. The samples are set to arrive in a capsule dropping in Utah on Sept. 24, 2023, and the rubble could help scientists better understand how planets were formed and life began on Earth. Catherine Garcia