NASA space probe to collect and return samples from an asteroid in hopes of learning more about the origins of life on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system. Mana Rabiee reports.
NASA hopes the Osiris-Rex space probe will help reveal the origins of life on Earth... The craft is designed to collect and return a handful of dust from an asteroid called Bennu, just 500 meters wide. Bennu is relatively close. It orbits our Sun, but it'll take two years for Osiris-Rex to get there. If all goes well, the solar-powered probe will extend a robotic arm during a flyby in 2018 to collect the samples. NASA scientist Lucy McFadden says Bennu was chosen because it's likely rich in carbon. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NASA SCIENTIST LUCY MCFADDEN SAYING: "The carbon minerals are necessary for life to begin. So we're going to Bennu to explore the origins of life as we know it here on earth… So we're really looking at the past for the early building blocks of life." But they'll have to wait a while. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft won't return until 2023. Only then can scientists get their hands on the asteroid material ... and start looking for answers about the origins of life as we know it.