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Touch-and-go: US spacecraft sampling asteroid for return

Space Asteroid Grab
Posted at 10:02 AM, Oct 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-18 10:02:54-04

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft circling an ancient asteroid 200 million miles away is about to reach out and make contact.

The Osiris-Rex spacecraft will attempt to descend to the boulder-packed surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday and snatch a handful of rubble.

It will be America's first crack at collecting asteroid samples for return to Earth, a feat accomplished so far only by Japan.

Scientists want to bring back at least 2 ounces worth of Bennu — about a handful's worth.

The spacecraft can touch down no more than three times to grab enough rubble. The samples won't arrive on Earth until 2023.