That's one small scoop for humanity.
NASA made history Tuesday after a spacecraft successfully collected samples from the surface of an asteroid during a carefully orchestrated, hourslong maneuver in orbit.
After spending nearly two years circling the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft used its robotic arm to gather pieces of the space rock that will subsequently be sent to Earth for study. The event marks an important milestone for NASA: It’s the first time the agency has gathered samples from an asteroid in space.
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“We did it,” Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission, said during NASA’s live broadcast of the event. “We've tagged the surface of the asteroid.”
The samples are expected to be delivered to Earth in September 2023, according to NASA. Scientists have said that the precious materials from Bennu’s surface could reveal intriguing insights into how the solar system came to be. Asteroids are pristine collections of the ancient ingredients that formed the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, so studying the chemical properties of space rocks could unlock secrets about planets and the origins of life on Earth.