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NASA's OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Arrives At Asteroid 80 Million Miles Away

An up-close view of the asteroid Bennu taken by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

A NASA spacecraft arrived Monday at an asteroid after a more than two-year journey. The plan is to take a sample of "dirt" from the surface and send it back to Earth.

"We have arrived." Mission controllers celebrated after receiving confirmation that the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft had arrived at the diamond-shaped asteroid named Bennu, which is about the size of the Empire State Building.

The spacecraft will spend the next year surveying the asteroid before using a robotic arm to suck up a sample of regolith, or dirt, from the surface.

The asteroid is an astronomical time capsule. Scientists are eager to examine the nearly 4 billion-year-old sample, which could hold evidence of the creation of our solar system.

The two-ounce sample will return to Earth in 2023 and will be the largest cosmic sample collected since the Apollo missions.

The $800 million spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral in 2016. Bennu is about 80 million miles away from Earth.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."