After a two-year chase, a NASA spacecraft has arrived at the ancient asteroid Bennu, its first visitor in billions of years. The robotic explorer Osiris-Rex on Monday pulled within 19km of the diamond-shaped space rock. It will get even closer in the days ahead and go into orbit around Bennu on December 31. No spacecraft has ever orbited such a small cosmic body.
It is the first attempt by the United States to gather asteroid samples for the return to Earth, something only Japan has accomplished so far.
Flight controllers applauded and exchanged high-fives once confirmation came through that Osiris-Rex made it to Bennu – exactly one week after NASA landed a spacecraft on Mars.