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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
Updated Nov 16, 2020 - Science

SpaceX launches new crew of astronauts for NASA

The Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Photo: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Japan's Soichi Noguchi are on their way to the International Space Station.

Why it matters: The crewed launch marks the second time SpaceX has launched people to orbit for NASA and the mission is expected to be the first of many regular flights like this to the space station.

27 mins ago - Health

U.S. exceeds 100,000 COVID-related hospitalizations for the first time

People wait outside the Emergency room of the Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California on Dec 1. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

More than 100,200 Americans were hospitalized as of Wednesday due to the coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, per the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The milestone comes as health officials anticipated cases to surge due to holiday travel and gatherings. The impact of the holiday remains notable, as many states across the country are only reporting partial data.

4 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”