NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample returns to Earth: Live updates

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OSIRIS-REx performs a final maneuver before delivering the sample on September 24

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe is on track for its historic delivery.

The spacecraft performed a final course-correction maneuver on Sunday (September 17) in preparation for the return of its asteroid sample on September 24 here on Earth. The probe is currently about 1.8 million miles (2.8 million kilometers) away, and speeding towards Earth at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour (roughly 23,000 kilometers per hour).

When it reaches about 63,000 miles (102,000 kilometers) above Earth on Sunday (September 24), it will send a capsule containing samples from the asteroid Bennu into a 36-mile-by-8.5-mile target area in the Utah desert, where teams will… NASA and the US Army are on standby to recover it.

Related: The OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe performs a final maneuver before delivering the sample on September 24

How much asteroid material is in OSIRIS-REx?

The OSIRIS-REx landing capsule is supposed to touch down on Earth on Sunday (September 24), under parachutes in the Utah desert.

Inside is a truly precious sample: The spacecraft picked up material from a 1,650-foot-wide (500-meter) near-Earth asteroid named Bennu in October 2020, which likely contains information about the history of the solar system. But how much material is there?

Read more: How much asteroid material will NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe deliver to Earth this weekend?

Here’s how asteroid Bennu surprised NASA’s OSIRIS-REx rover

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s landing on the asteroid Bennu kicked up a massive wall of debris. (Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab/Jonathan North)

When NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe arrived at asteroid Bennu in 2018, it looked nothing like mission planners had envisioned.

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“I really thought we might be in trouble there,” Dante Lauretta, the mission’s chief scientist, told Space.com. Because the asteroid’s surface looked very different than the OSIRIS-REx team thought, the spacecraft had to be reprogrammed in order to land on Bennu’s loose and dangerous surface.

But Bennu still had more surprises for the spacecraft when it touched down to collect a sample. Read about how asteroid Bennu surprised NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and nearly killed it along the way in our article here as we count down to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft dropping this cargo to Earth on Sunday, September 24.

Related: How the asteroid Bennu surprised NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and nearly killed it along the way

OSIRIS-REx one week after the asteroid sample return

This NASA diagram shows how the OSIRIS-REx capsule will return to Earth on September 24 over the course of 4 hours. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA is just one week away from the epic landing of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return capsule, filled with pieces of the asteroid Bennu. The landing, which is on track for September 24, 2023, will mark the end of OSIRIS-REx’s 7-year primary mission that began with a launch in 2016 and sample collection on Bennu in October 2020.

Scientists are excited, but also nervous, as they prepare for OSIRIS-REx’s return to Earth. The spacecraft will crash into Earth’s atmosphere, protected by a heat shield, and reach speeds of 27,000 mph before deploying the main and parachutes to slow itself to a more manageable speed of 10 mph.

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As NASA prepares for the OSIRIS-REx landing, check out our latest coverage below and stay tuned for daily updates leading up to the landing itself!

The OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe is heading toward Earth to deliver the sample on September 24
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe set itself on its way toward Earth by firing its thruster on Sept. 10, two weeks before delivering the highly anticipated asteroid sample.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission almost went quiet, then Queen guitarist Brian May intervened
The mission’s ultimate success was due in part to Queen’s guitarist, Brian May, who meticulously created 3D images of the rubble pile to help mission leaders determine safe landing spots.

NASA is conducting a crucial drop test before the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample arrives on September 24
The OSIRIS-REx team conducted a crucial drop test on Wednesday (August 30), practicing what they will do when the mission’s real asteroid sample returns home on September 24.

OSIRIS-REx Science Chief Reveals NASA’s First Asteroid Sampling Mission Almost Didn’t Succeed (Exclusive Interview)
Dante Lauretta, chief scientist for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, talks about the unexpected challenges of NASA’s first attempt to sample asteroids in an exclusive interview.

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