NASA’s spacecraft to return to Earth after over 2 years collecting asteroid material

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (WDVM) — NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft wrapped up its mission Monday after nearly two-and-a-half years. The spacecraft spent time on the asteroid Bennu to collect asteroid material so scientists can study our solar system’s history. 

So, why did it take so long? OSIRIS-REx had to travel around the sun twice (about 1.4 billion miles) to travel where Earth will be in the future. NASA experts say Bennu was chosen because of its size, composition, and proximity to Earth. 

Jessica Barnes, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, is part of the sample analysis team that will examine the material’s organic molecules, water, and composition. The international team of Americans, Canadians, and Japanese will study how the asteroid formed and how it evolved as it spent time in space. 

But Barnes says they’ll only be taking a look at about 25% of it. “75% is going to be retained for future generations who will look at those samples using technologies that aren’t available now,” she said, “and so that could be viewers’ grandchildren or people who aren’t even born yet who will look at these samples and learn new things about them.”

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