NASA’s asteroid-punching spacecraft begins its trek back home
The NASA spacecraft that snatched a sample of rocks from the distant Bennu asteroid last year fired up a suite of thrusters on Monday and committed to its two-year journey back home. The maneuver kicks the minivan-sized spacecraft, dubbed Osiris-REx, onto a winding cosmic path around the Sun and toward Earth’s orbit. When it returns to Earth in 2023, it’ll toss a capsule packed with asteroid samples through the atmosphere somewhere over Utah.
The spacecraft’s Asteroid Departure Maneuver (ADM) was no sweat for the Osiris-REx team, but it marked a significant step towards the return of the first pristine cache of asteroid samples in NASA’s history. Spacecraft engineers inside a Lockheed Martin center in Littleton, Colorado confirmed the…