major first for NASA and a potential boon for science, space exploration and our understanding of the solar system. Lockheed Martin Space will stream the daring mission live and we have everything you need to know right here about what will happen and how to watch.will briefly touch down on a large asteroid Tuesday and grab some rocks and dust from its surface to be returned to Earth for study. The event marks a
The touch-and-go, or TAG, sample collection of asteroid 101955 Bennu is set to go down on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at around 3:12 p.m. PT. NASA will broadcast the TAG maneuver live on NASA TV and the agency’s website starting at 2 p.m. PT Tuesday. You can find the livestream link below.
When did the mission begin?
Osiris-Rex as a concept has been in existence since at least 2004, when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA. After more than a decade of development, the spacecraft, atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft spent the next 26 months cruising to Bennu, officially arriving on Dec. 3, 2018.
Since then, the mission team has spent nearly two years orbiting the diamond-shaped space rock, surveying and mapping its surface to select the best sampling spot. In recent months, rehearsals have begun ahead of the upcoming sample collection attempt, and now the team says it’s ready to play TAG with Bennu.
Bennu is what’s called a “rubble pile” asteroid, meaning it was formed in the deep cosmic past when gravity slowly forced together remnants of an ancient collision. The result is a body shaped something like a spinning top with a diameter of around a third of a mile (500 meters) and a surface strewn with large rocks and boulders.
Bennu is thought to be a window into the solar system’s past: a pristine, carbon-rich body carrying the building blocks of both planets and life. Some of these resources, such as water and metals, could also be worth mining at some point in the future for use on Earth or in space exploration.
The asteroid has one other characteristic that makes it particularly interesting to scientists, and humans in general — it has a chance of impacting Earth in the distant future. On NASA’s list of impact risks, Bennu is ranked No. 2. Current data shows dozens of potential impacts in the final quarter of the 22nd century, although all only have a minute chance of actually coming to pass.
How will TAG work?
For anyone who’s ever dabbled with…