NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft will briefly touch down on a large asteroid Tuesday and grab some rocks and dust from its surface to be returned to Earth for study. The event marks a major first for NASA and a potential boon for science, space exploration and our understanding of the solar system. Lockheed Martin Space will stream the daring mission live and we have everything you need to know right here about what will happen and how to watch.
The touch-and-go, or TAG, sample collection of asteroid 101955 Bennu is set to go down on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at around 3:12 p.m. PT. NASA will broadcast the TAG maneuver live on NASA TV and the agency’s website starting at 2 p.m. PT Tuesday.
Osiris-Rex as a concept has been in existence since at least 2004, when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA. After more than a decade of development, the spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sept. 8, 2016, atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft spent the next 26 months cruising to Bennu, officially arriving on Dec. 3, 2018.
Since then, the mission team has spent nearly two years orbiting the diamond-shaped space rock, surveying and mapping its surface to select the best sampling spot. In recent months, rehearsals have begun ahead of the upcoming sample collection attempt, and now the team says it’s ready to play TAG with Bennu.