It's a huge milestone in the exploration of outer space. On Monday, NASA's Deep Space Explorer OSIRIS-REx flew within a dozen miles of an asteroid the size of a skyscraper named Bennu. It's taken over two years for OSIRIS-REx to reach the asteroid. That has an orbit roughly between those of Earth and Mars.
Cycling on average around 100 million miles from the Sun. Venus believed by NASA scientists to hold organic compounds fundamental to life and there's also the risk that the asteroid could collide with Earth in about 150 years. A Cyrus Rex is the vanguard and an unprecedented seven year NASA mission to conduct close up survey of Bennu.
And then bring samples from its surface back to the Earth for study. At it's launching 2016, one NASA scientist said the mission could lead to a better understanding of how life on Earth began.>> We're going to Bennu explore the origins of life as we know it here on Earth.
By looking for clues that have been covered up here on Earth but looking to see what the precursors were. And how life evolved here on Earth.>> Scientists think that comets and asteroids crashing into Earth brought organic compounds and water. The building blocks of life. OSIRIS-REx is due to return to Earth in 2023, and analysis of what it brings back could help prove that theory.
But the study will also help researchers get to grips with the likelihood of Benu colliding into Earth in the future. Right now, there's a 1 in 207 chance of that happening. I doesn't sound like much, but that makes Bennu number two on NASA's list of objects in space capable of hitting the Earth.