MORE

On Oct. 20, 2020, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully descended to the surface of asteroid Bennu and collected rocky material from sample site Nightingale during its Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection maneuver. Two days later, the mission team received images from OSIRIS-REx confirming the spacecraft had collected more than enough material to meet one of its main mission requirements – acquiring at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of the asteroid’s surface material.

The team later successfully stored the sample in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth.

On April 7, 2021, OSIRIS-REx will give Bennu one last glance before saying farewell. Before departing for Earth on May 10, 2021, the spacecraft will perform a final flyby of Bennu – capturing its last images of sample collection site Nightingale to look for transformations on Bennu’s surface after the Oct. 20, 2020, sample collection event.

OSIRIS-REx will deliver the sample to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.

OSIRIS-REx Sample Stowage
The left image shows the OSIRIS-REx collector head hovering over the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) after the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism arm moved it into the proper position for capture. The right image shows the collector head secured onto the capture ring in the SRC. Image credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

An ancient relic of our solar system’s early days, Bennu has seen more than 4.5 billion years of history. Scientists think that within 10 million years of our solar system’s formation, Bennu’s present-day composition was already established.

Bennu likely broke off from a much larger carbon-rich asteroid about 700 million to 2 billion years ago. It likely formed in the Main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter, and has drifted much closer to Earth since then. Because its materials are so old, Bennu may contain organic molecules similar to those that could have been involved with the start of life on Earth.

Go farther. Explore Bennu In Depth ›

Ten Things to Know About 101995 Bennu

10 Need-to-Know Things About Bennu

1

Found in 1999

The asteroid was discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey on September 11, 1999.

2

Named by 9-year-old

Bennu’s original designation was 1999 RQ36. In 2013, a third-grade student named Michael Puzio won a contest to name the asteroid.

3

Far from home

Bennu has drifted into near-Earth space because of gravitational interactions with giant planets and the gentle push of heating from the Sun. 

4

Low density

Bennu's density is only about 30 percent more than water. This suggests the asteroid is probably a loose collection of rocks, like a pile of rubble.

5

Wave every 6 years

Bennu has a close approach to Earth every six years. 

6

Potentially hazardous

Scientists estimate Bennu has a 1‐in‐2,700 chance of impacting the Earth during one of its close approaches to the Earth in the late 22nd century.

7

burn up or bolt?

Bennu may burn up in the Sun. Over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus

8

Big Boulder

The boulder that juts from Bennu's south pole is about 164 feet (50 meters) high and 180 feet (55 meters) wide.

9

Moonless

Although some asteroids have moons, Bennu does not.

10

Collecting a Sample

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission studied Bennu in unprecedented detail. It collected a sample in 2020 and will return it to Earth in 2023.

FAQ

FAQ: Why Bennu?

Bennu is relatively close to Earth, it's really old and well-preserved. It might even help us in our search for clues to the origins of life – and learn how to preserve life by keeping near-Earth asteroids at bay. Read all 10 reasons scientists chose to go to Bennu ›

#MyOSIRISREx Pocket Spacecraft

image of the Where is OSIRIS-REx activity printout

While the real OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is working to bring a sample of asteroid Bennu to Earth, you can take your own pocket spacecraft for an adventure right here at home.

More to Explore

  • Pioneer 10 Model

    Pioneer 10 was first through the asteroid belt and first to Jupiter.

  • Build Your Own 3D Glasses

    With a few materials and a few steps, you can build your own glasses to view 3D images.

  • NEAR Model

    NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission was the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.

Resources

Resources

More About OSIRIS-REx

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Mission Site

University of Arizona OSIRIS-REx Mission Site

Solar System News