The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Oct. 20, 2020, and briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and rock from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.
OSIRIS-REx collected rock and dust specimens from Bennu’s rugged exterior with a new type of sampling device that used compressed gas to loosen particles on the asteroid’s surface. Bennu was an intriguing target for the OSIRIS-REx mission due in part to its proximity to Earth’s orbit and its chemical composition. Bennu’s rocks are thought to date to the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago. Early telescope observations of Bennu suggested that, unlike most asteroids, it is carbon-rich and likely contains organic molecules similar to those that sparked life on an embryonic Earth.