/ Modified mar 29, 2023 10:19 a.m.

OSIRIS-REx zeroes in on September return to Earth

The space explorer will drop off a capsule containing material collected from Bennu.

Osiris 6 month Illustration shows the OSIRIS-REx sample return capsule upon landing in the Utah desert.

The University of Arizona-backed OSIRIS-REx mission is less than 6 months away from dropping off its sample of soil from the asteroid Bennu. If everything goes as planned, the unmanned spacecraft will parachute a container on-target in Utah on September 24.

Mission principal investigator Dante Lauretta explained his team is looking forward to the final milestone in an historic journey.

“We’re doing a lot of work with the Utah test and training range so we have a lot of coordination with military to understand their capabilities in tracking the capsule for us, as well as providing us with access by helicopters out to the location once they have identified where the capsule has landed," he said.

OSIRIS-REx collected dust and rocks from Bennu’s surface in 2020, the first time an American spacecraft has done that. As it approaches Earth, OSIRIS-REx will eject its sample container for re-entry before flying off to tackle another mission, exploring the asteroid Apophis in 2029.

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