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Watch as NASA's OSIRIS-REx punches an asteroid

On Tuesday, the spacecraft snagged a piece of the asteroid to bring back home.

NASA

On Tuesday, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully landed on Bennu and gave the asteroid a little kick.

NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The purpose of the Touch-And-Go (TAG) maneuver was to collect a sample of asteroid Bennu and bring it back to Earth for testing so that we can learn more about these ancient objects, and get a better understanding of how the Solar System formed.

Although it took place over 200 million miles away, the spacecraft's brief rendezvous with the asteroid was captured by its cameras and the images were beamed down to Earth.

The spacecraft's sampling head touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds, before backing away from the asteroid. By penetrating Bennu's regolith and firing a nitrogen-gas bottle to stir up some of the dust and pebbles on the asteroid's surface, the spacecraft could scoop up the surface material.

The spacecraft spent approximately 5 of the 6 seconds of contact collecting surface material. But the majority of sample collection occurred within the first 3 seconds, according to NASA.

OSIRIS-REx launched on September 8, 2016 and has been orbiting asteroid Bennu since December, 2018.

As NASA's first attempt to not only land on, but snag a sample of an asteroid, the mission is set to revolutionize what we know about these rocky bodies.

Bennu orbits the Sun every 436.6 days. It is the most primitive kind of asteroid and has barely changed since it formed 4 billion years ago. Itt contains relatively high amounts of carbon, organic molecules, and amino acids — the building blocks of life.

OSIRIS-REx will begin its journey home in March, 2021 and is scheduled to drop off the sample of Bennu by the year 2023.

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