An American space probe that has collected material from an asteroid has begun its journey back to Earth. The NASA probe Osirix-Rex, which landed on the asteroid Bennu in October last year, is estimated to have sucked up some 200 to 400 grams of grit and returns to Earth in September 2023 if all goes well.
Scientists hope to learn more about the origin of the solar system, and with it the Earth. The grit may tell more about how planets originated and where life on Earth comes from. Bennu is estimated to be 490 meters long and about 4.5 billion years old.
How much exactly gravel has been sucked up, becomes clear only after landing on Earth. To reach Earth, the probe will fly twice around the sun and travel a distance of 2.3 billion kilometers. The asteroid is now about 287 million kilometers from Earth.
The mission, which costs more than 800 million dollars, is the first in a series of multiple NASA missions to asteroids. It is the first time the Americans have wanted to bring material from an asteroid to Earth, but Japan has already been ahead of them. That was about a much smaller amount of material.
How do you get grit off an asteroid? A mission manager explained last year how that goes: