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A before (left) and after of OSIRIS-REx stowing its sample. Photo: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully tucked away a large sample of the asteroid Bennu for safe-keeping ahead of its eventual return to Earth.

Why it matters: Scientists on Earth plan to use the sample to unlock the secrets of how our solar system formed billions of years ago.

The intrigue: OSIRIS-REx nabbed what appeared to be a sizable sample from the asteroid on Oct. 20, but that sampling jammed up the spacecraft's machinery, allowing some of the material to escape into space.

  • That forced NASA to stow the sample before they were able to get an exact measurement of how much they actually collected.
  • Mission controllers successfully completed stowing the sample on Wednesday.
  • "We can visually confirm an estimated, approximately 400 grams of sample that we can see in the imaging data," Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator said during a press conference Thursday. (NASA wanted to collect at least 60 grams of material.)

What's next: The spacecraft is expected to start its journey back to Earth in March 2021, delivering the sample to waiting scientists in 2023.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Jan 26, 2021 - Science

The coming land rush in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Space is the new Wild West. Nations and space companies are racing to come to a consensus on what they can own, mine and take possession of in outer space before competitors stake ground first.

Why it matters: Private companies are building their businesses on sending spacecraft to the Moon, asteroids and other objects in the coming years to eventually extract resources that will be used or sold.

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities tied to Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

2 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.