OSIRIS-REx: The Audacious Plan To Scoop An Asteroid And Fly Back To Earth

We’ve been super-excited about the Philae landing recently, the first soft landing on a comet. But imagine if the spacecraft was equipped to bring a sample of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko back to Earth. What sort of secrets could we learn from examining the materials of the comet up close?

That dream will remain a dream for 67P, but guess what — if all goes to plan, that idea will execute for asteroid Bennu. Check out the new video above for more details on the audacious mission; below the jump is a brief mission description.

There is a mission expected to launch in 2016 called OSIRIS-REx that will spend two years flying to the asteroid to nab a sample, then will come back to Earth in 2023 to deliver it to scientists. This is exciting because asteroids are a sort of time capsule showing how the Solar System used to be in the early days, before gravity pulled rocks and ice together to gradually form the planets and moons that we have today.

“Scientists tell us that asteroid Bennu has been a silent witness to titanic events in the solar system’s 4.6 billion year history,” NASA wrote on a website commemorating the new video. “When it returns in 2023 with its precious cargo, OSIRIS-REx will help to break that silence and retrace Bennu’s journey.”

For more information on OSIRIS-REx, check out the mission’s website.