NASA spacecraft touches asteroid surface to grab rubble

PHOTO [NASA]: The asteroid Bennu as seen from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. After nearly two years circling the asteroid, OSIRIS-REx will try to descend to the boulder-spiked surface to grab up some rubble on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

From the Associated Press:

A NASA spacecraft descended to an asteroid Tuesday and, dodging boulders the size of buildings, momentarily touched the surface to collect a handful of cosmic rubble for return to Earth.

It was a first for the United States — only Japan has scored asteroid samples.

"Touchdown declared," a flight controller announced to cheers and applause. "Sampling is in progress."

Confirmation came from the Osiris-Rex spacecraft as it made contact with the surface of the asteroid Bennu more than 200 million miles away. But it could be a week before scientists know how much, if much of anything, was grabbed and whether another try will be needed. If successful, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.