To store the sample, engineers will command the robotic arm to place the sample collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), located in the body of the spacecraft.
By the time flight controllers near Denver hear back from Osiris-Rex, around 18 minutes will have passed since it made surface contact, as it takes this much time for radio signals to travel from Bennu to Earth.
From here, OSIRIS-Rex will pull away from the asteroid, redeploy its solar panels as well as a high-gain antenna to transmit initial images and data from the operation then begin a almost three year long trek back to Earth where the collection capsule is expected to land at the Utah Test and Training Range in 2023.
"It will be four and a half hours of anxiousness", Beth Buck, OSIRIS-REx mission operations manager at Lockheed Martin Space, said in a news conference ahead of the event.More news: Source of details in Meghan Markle biography proves to be Meghan Markle
Osiris-Rex got as low as 130 feet during the final dry run in August. But it may take a week before scientists know how much, if any, seizures have been taken, and if another attempt is needed. This could potentially offer a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and offer more clues to what could have helped seed life on Earth.
Osiris-Rex eased its robotic arm down to a target zone just eight meters (26 feet) in diameter, then fired pressurized nitrogen to agitate the surface material and catch its sample.
This "super-resolution" view of asteroid Bennu was created using eight images obtained by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on October 29, 2018, from a distance of about 205 miles (330 km). It's been spinning around the asteroid for nearly two years, preparing for Touch and Go maneuvers.
Bennu was named in 2013 by a nine-year-old boy from North Carolina who won the Name that Asteroid! competition, a collaboration between the mission, the Planetary Society, and the LINEAR asteroid survey that discovered Bennu.
NASA's science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, likened Bennu to the Rosetta Stone: "something that's out there and tells the history of our entire Earth, of the solar system, during the last billions of years".More news: Tigray forces fire three rockets into neighbouring region of Ethiopia
Another benefit: Bennu has a slight chance of hitting the ground late in the next century, although not as a life terminator.
At the climax, OSIRIS-REx's collection arm touched Bennu's surface for only a few seconds.
Scientists could also learn more about the types of resources that could be extracted from asteroids, as well as the best strategies for diverting potentially hazardous space rocks. Regardless of the number of attempts required, samples will not return to Earth until 2023 to close a mission valued at over $ 800 million. It could, for example, have landed on a patch of large rocks too big for its sample head to ingest. "But this is absolutely the major event of the mission right now", NASA scientist Lucy Lim said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, NASA plans to launch three more asteroid missions in the next two years, all in one direction.More news: Britain hopes Christmas can be saved as COVID cases flatten