NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft is poised for an evening liftoff. The spacecraft, Osiris-Rex, will be aiming for asteroid Bennu (BEHN’-oo). The probe will orbit the big black rock, vacuum up some gravel, then haul the sample back to Earth. The entire quest will take seven years.
NASA has gone after comet dust and solar wind particles before, but never pieces of an asteroid. It promises to be the biggest cosmic haul since the Apollo moon rocks.
Eight-thousand NASA guests are descending on Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the launch, including the schoolboy who named the asteroid. Mike Puzio of Greensboro, North Carolina, won a naming contest in 2013. Now 12, he can’t wait to see his first up-close rocket launch.
The name Bennu comes from the heron of Egyptian mythology.