NASA only launched its OSIRIS-REx mission a week ago, but the spacecraft is already two million miles away from Earth and cruisin’ along nicely.
According to an update from the agency, the spacecraft — which has just begun a 7-year mission to rendezvous with an asteroid and bring back samples from the surface — is “healthy” and moving according to schedule.
OSIRIS-REx is traveling 12,300 miles per hour relative to Earth.
Right now, the spacecraft is headed towards a deep space orbit around the sun. This leg of the journey is largely just killing time and making sure everything works before heading back to Earth on September 23 of next year. OSIRIS-REx will do a flyby of its home planet and use Earth’s gravity to slingshot into space toward the asteroid Bennu.
On August 28, 2018, it will finally reach the asteroid, where it will conduct a lengthy study and eventually perform a touch-and-go “pogo” maneuver to grab a sample, before heading home in September of 2023. If it’s successful, the mission might teach us about the origins of life and better prepare Earth to predict possible asteroid strikes.
All of that is in the future, though. For now, OSIRIS-REx is just truckin’ through space, healthy as can be.