NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer began its journey towards 101955 Bennu back in September of 2016. The plan for the spacecraft is not to land on the asteroid, but to get close enough to survey its surface for several months and to return samples of its dust back to Earth by 2023. Before samples can be collected, OSIRIS-REx will move around the asteroid to determine its size and speed and to build a virtual model so that it and the team back home will have a better idea of what they are dealing with. The arrival event to kick off those operations is scheduled for noon EST on Monday, and there will be a few options for those who choose to follow along at home: the OSIRIS-REx Facebook page, the NASA Live website, and of course, YouTube. An arrival preview program will begin on NASA TV at 11:15am, and full coverage will start around 11:45.
By studying and collecting samples from Bennu, NASA hopes to learn more about the early days of the solar system. It’s not a mission to plant a bomb on the asteroid to spare future generations from a fiery impact, or to cover it in paint to change its trajectory, though the latter has been suggested. Odds are that we have nothing to worry about and that the asteroid will miss Earth completely, but at least we will have more information about the potential threat, should the NASA of the future need to act.