NASA wants to go to an asteroid and bring part of it back

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

Not to freak you out, but NASA has a whole list of asteroids it thinks could hit our planet.

The good news is the space agency is going to send a craft to one of them, and for the first time ever, carry a sample of the asteroid back to Earth.

SEE MORE: NASA's DNA Sequencer Could Be A 'Game Changer' For Long-Term Missions

The OSIRIS-REx space probe is set for launch Sept. 8. Its mission is to "bring back 60 grams of pristine carbon-rich material from the surface of [asteroid] Bennu."

Now, how scary can this asteroid be? One of the team's leaders said, "Think of it as a small mountain in space ... that makes occasional close approaches to our planet."

RELATED: Space asteroids

9 PHOTOS
Space asteroids
See Gallery
Space asteroids
PA Archive
IN SPACE - JULY 10: This handout image provided by the European Space Agency, transmitted by the space craft Rosetta, shows the asteroid Lutetia at closest approach July 10, 2010 between Mars and Jupiter in outer space. Lutetia, about which little is known although it was discovered in 1852, is believed to be 83.3 miles (134 kilometers) in diameter. The Rosetta, which was launched in 2004, flew by Lutetia tonight at a distance of 1,900 miles (3,200 kilometers). (Photo by ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)
This Dawn framing camera (FC) image of Asteroid Vesta shows Licinia crater, which is the large crater in the center of the image. Licinia has a fresh, sharp rim that is scalloped in shape. Around the side of Licinia crater there are many streaks of dark and bright material cascading towards the crater's center. This image is located in Vesta's Floronia quadrangle, in Vesta's northern hemisphere. NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on Oct. 11, 2011. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
The large asteroid Vesta is shown in this image taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Astronauts and scientists are training in waters off Key Largo, Florida as part of NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) which is meant to test equipment and man's reactions for a human rendezvous with an asteroid. (Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - JULY 10: This handout photo illustration provided by the European Space Agency, transmitted by the space craft Rosetta, shows the final sequence of images before the closest approach of the asteroid Lutetia July 10, 2010 between Mars and Jupiter in outer space. Lutetia, about which little is known although it was discovered in 1852, is believed to be 83.3 miles (134 kilometers) in diameter. The Rosetta, which was launched in 2004, flew by Lutetia tonight at a distance of 1,900 miles (3,200 kilometers). (Photo by ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team via Getty Images)
NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image with its framing camera on July 17, 2011. It was taken from a distance of about 9,500 miles (15,000 kilometers) away from the protoplanet Vesta. Each pixel in the image corresponds to roughly 0.88 miles (1.4 kilometers). (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Image of the Vesta Ateroid. This Dawn framing camera (FC) image of Vesta shows linear grooves and ridges in Vesta's regolith. These linear features generally run diagonally across the image from the top left to the bottom right. They are less than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) in width and some have lengths that extend across the entire image. This image is located in Vesta's Tuccia quadrangle, in Vesta's southern hemisphere. NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained this image on April 8, 2012. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
As NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes off for its next destination, this mosaic synthesizes some of the best views the spacecraft had of the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn studied Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012. The towering mountain at the south pole -- more than twice the height of Mount Everest -- is visible at the bottom of the image. The set of three craters known as the 'snowman' can be seen at the top left. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Asteroid 2015 TB145 is depicted in eight individual radar images collected on Oct. 31, 2015 between 5:55 a.m. PDT (8:55 a.m. EDT) and 6:08 a.m. PDT (9:08 a.m. EDT). (Photo via NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR/NRAO/AUI/NSF)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

It's going to take two years for OSIRIS-REx to travel to Bennu, and when it does, it'll first map the asteroid and identify what kind of chemicals and minerals are on its surface.

Finally in 2020, the craft will briefly touch down to collect the sample of rocks and dust that NASA's looking for.

Then it just has to get near Earth and eject the sample in a canister with parachutes before it will spend its remaining days revolving around the sun.

OK, so it might not be a simple mission, but if all goes according to plan, it'll lay the foundation for future exploration of asteroids, which were actually some of the first parts of our solar system.

Materials in asteroids could be the ingredients that created life, and it's possible an asteroid –– like Bennu –– supplied the water for our oceans.

Read Full Story

People are Reading