Arrival at Bennu

  • Released Monday, March 18th, 2019
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:46PM

The asteroid Bennu is one of 780,000 asteroids in our solar system. Out of all those, it was chosen as the destination for NASA's Origins, Spectra Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft on a mission to understand our early solar system and return a sample from the asteroid's surface to Earth. After a two-year journey, OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in December 2018 to begin its science mission. But what made Bennu a good source for answers? First, Bennu’s proximity to Earth meant a quicker and easier flight for OSIRIS-REx. The spacecraft used Earth’s gravity to boost itself toward the asteroid. Bennu’s size is another bonus: it allows Bennu to spin on its axis at a rate that makes it easily approachable by a spacecraft, and rich in soil that would’ve flung off of smaller, fast-spinning asteroids. Its ancient age and the fact that it is well-preserved in the vacuum of space means it contains dust from the formation of our solar system. Bennu also is rich in carbon, which could offer clues to the possible role asteroids played in life on Earth. Plus, scientists have studied Bennu from Earth, and now will see whether their predictions about it were right. This will help us understand other asteroids, particularly their trajectory, and help us deflect ones that come too close. Watch the videos to learn more.

One of the first mosaic images of Bennu put together from twelve images taken just 15 miles (24 km) away by OSIRIS-REx on Dec. 2, 2018.

One of the first mosaic images of Bennu put together from twelve images taken just 15 miles (24 km) away by OSIRIS-REx on Dec. 2, 2018.

OSIRIS-REx will orbit Bennu for the first two years of its mission, taking detailed observations of its surface.

OSIRIS-REx will orbit Bennu for the first two years of its mission, taking detailed observations of its surface.

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NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio