OSIRIS-REx has Left Asteroid Bennu and is Bringing its Precious Cargo Home

On May 10, at 4:23 pm ADT, OSIRIS-RX fired its engines for a full 7 minutes of burning. The spacecraft began to move at a speed of about one thousand kilometers (600 miles) an hour from Bennu to return to Earth after its long journey of two and a half years. NASA’s Osiris-RX Greek planet has told asteroid Bennu that it is a space rock that has been studied for more than two years. The spacecraft analyzed this small asteroid in detail and finally landed on its surface last October to collect samples of asteroid material to bring it back to Earth. The journey back home with its valuable cargo has started.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement, “Many of the achievements of OSIRIS-Rex have shown bold and innovative ways to explore in real time.” “The team rose to the challenge, and now a primitive piece of our solar system is back on Earth where many generations of researchers can unlock its secrets.” On October 20, 2020, the spacecraft landed on the surface to capture an ancient specimen of Bennu’s soil and captured some spectacular footage along the way. “From a science perspective and a goal-achieving perspective, this is really the key moment,” Lockheed Martin’s OSIRIS-Rex scientist Beau Bierhaus told IFLScience at the time. “This is where we accomplish what the mission set out to do.” 

Just a week before the Historic Touch, the mission revealed incredible footage captured during the study of the asteroid that while editing together you feel like you are standing on its surface. OSIRIS-Rex is the third spacecraft to collect material from an asteroid, and the first for the United States, after a mission to Japan’s Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 asteroid Ryugu. And now, the mission is complete, the journey home begins.

“Our whole mindset was, ‘Where are we in space compared to Bennu? Mike Morrow, deputy project manager for OSIRIS-RX at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said. “Now our mentality is ‘Where is the spacecraft with Earth?’ The spacecraft will orbit the Sun twice before reaching Earth’s past on September 24, 2023. The sample capsule is then scheduled to land at the Utah Test and Training Range in the western desert of Utah.