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Views of the asteroid Bennu from the spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, as the craft approached the asteroid. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully arrived at the near-Earth asteroid Bennu on Monday. It will now spend the next year orbiting the asteroid, searching for the best places to land and scoop up samples before eventually returning them to Earth for analysis in 2023, NASA said.

Why it matters: Asteroids are time capsules of the early solar system, thought to contain information about the origins of planets and the natural resources that enabled life to develop. Analyzing Bennu may help scientists learn more about the asteroid's composition, which could lead to new discoveries about how life evolved in the universe.

  • Bennu is rich in carbon, which means it may contain organic molecules and amino acids that could be similar to the building blocks of life on Earth.

What's next: In addition to looking back in time, NASA and private commercial space companies are developing plans to mine asteroids in the future for valuable minerals, for example, and this mission could provide the necessary justification for such plans.

  • The spacecraft itself — made by Lockheed Martin and operated in partnership with NASA — is an example of the already sizable role the private sector plays in the space industry.

Go deeper: The interstellar object Oumuamua is almost certainly not an alien spaceship

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.

Michigan board certifies Biden's win

Poll workers count absentee ballots in Detroit, Michigan on Nov. 4. Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified the state's election results on Monday, making President-elect Joe Biden's win there official and granting him the state's 16 electoral votes.

Why it matters: Republican Party leaders had unsuccessfully appealed to delay the official certification, amid the Trump campaign's failed legal challenges in key swing states.

Biden to nominate Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary

Photo: Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to nominate former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary, four people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Yellen, 74, will bring instant economic celebrity to Biden’s team and, if confirmed, she will not only be the first female Treasury Secretary but also the first person to have held all three economic power positions in the federal government: the chair of Council of Economic Advisers, the chair of Federal Reserve and the Treasury Secretary.