NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral on September 8, 2016, riding an Atlas V rocket into a seven year long mission to map the asteroid Bennu and the bring a sample of it back to Earth. From AstroidMission.org:

OSIRIS-REx seeks answers to the questions that are central to the human experience: Where did we come from? What is our destiny? Asteroids, the leftover debris from the solar system formation process, can answer these questions and teach us about the history of the sun and planets.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is traveling to Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid whose regolith may record the earliest history of our solar system. Bennu may contain the molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth’s oceans. Bennu is also one of the most potentially hazardous asteroids, as it has a relatively high probability of impacting the Earth late in the 22nd century. OSIRIS-REx will determine Bennu’s physical and chemical properties, which will be critical to know in the event of an impact mitigation mission. Finally, asteroids like Bennu contain natural resources such as water, organics, and precious metals. In the future, these asteroids may one day fuel the exploration of the solar system by robotic and manned spacecraft.

Get a closer look at its path to Bennu and back in this New York Times feature, a complement to the Out There NYT video above.

Plus, watch the launch below. Favorite moment (after launch) starts at 4m15s.

Follow this vid with Space Rocks: Comets, asteroids, meteors, & meteorites.

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