Arizona Spacecraft Begins Journey Home

May 10, 2021

An Arizona-led spacecraft mission begins its journey back to Earth today after successfully scooping up a sample of an asteroid. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Credit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft operated by the University of Arizona has spent the last two and a half years orbiting around the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. The spacecraft gathered a sample of dust and rubble from the asteroid last October. It now faces a 1.4-billion-mile journey back to Earth. It’ll drop the sample capsule in the Utah desert in September of 2023.

This is expected to be the largest sample collected by a NASA mission since the moon rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts. Scientists at the University of Arizona and elsewhere will study the sample to learn more about the creation of the solar system and the origins of life in the universe. Three-quarters of the asteroid material will be archived for scientists to study in the future with technologies not yet invented.