OSIRIS-REx, the “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer”, collected an 8.8-ounce sample of asteroid 101955 Bennu back in 2020.
A suitcase packed with asteroid rocks will enter Earth's atmosphere and land in Utah on Sunday afternoon. This will mark the first US attempt to collect and return asteroid samples.
Following a fiery re-entry, the sample capsule is expected to land in the Utah western desert at around 8.55am MDT (10.55am EDT / 9.55am CDT).
As it makes a flyby today, the robotic craft will hurl its sample capsule at the Earth’s atmosphere, before heading off to start an entirely new mission.
Tomorrow will see the rock and dust samples transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where the job of cataloging and analysing will begin.
According to the space agency, studying the “pristine material” from Bennu “will offer generations of scientists a window into the time when the Sun and the planets were forming, about 4.5 billion years ago.”