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Asteroid Mission Begins 1.6 Billion Mile Journey Home

This artist's concept shows OSIRIS-REx spacecraft contacting the asteroid Bennu with the Touch-And-Go Sample Arm Mechanism or TAGSAM. Photo: NASA

A spacecraft has started its 1.6 billion mile trip home after collecting a sample of dirt from an ancient asteroid.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission spent the past two years at the asteroid Bennu, surveying its terrain and sucking up dust from the surface. On Monday it began firing its thrusters to start the two year journey home.

The spacecraft is carrying more than 2 ounces of dirt from the surface — the largest sample collected by a NASA mission since the Apollo astronauts returned with moon rocks.

Scientists will examine the material to learn about the formation of our solar system and how Earth developed as a habitable planet.

A capsule containing the sample will land in Utah in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral back in 2016.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »