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In historic contact, NASA spacecraft touches asteroid
October 28, 2020

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission readies itself to touch the surface of asteroid Bennu.Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

A NASA spacecraft touched an asteroid with a robotic arm, a first-ever achievement for the agency that may offer a glimpse into the early solar system.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft extended its robotic arm and touched Bennu on October 20, taking samples from the ancient asteroid currently located 321 million kilometers from Earth.

NASA says elements that originated from Bennu could have helped seed life on Earth. If samples collected from the asteroid are deemed adequate, OSIRIS-REx will stow the pebbles and dust before starting for home in March 2021 with an expected arrival in 2023. Otherwise NASA will begin plans for a second collection attempt in January.