For the first time in its history, NASA has successfully collected samples from the surface of an asteroid, using the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on Tuesday.
The small spacecraft has been orbiting Bennu, an asteroid 500 meters across, for almost two years. Around 6 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, the spacecraft completed a “Touch-And-Go” maneuver before firing its thrusters to get back to a safe distance from the asteroid. The lonely space rock was more than 200 million miles away at the time.
“We did it,” principal investigator Dante Lauretta said during the agency’s live broadcast. “We’ve tagged the surface of the asteroid.”