After decades of passively studying the solar system through remote imaging and sensing, humanity has taken a more hands-on approach to space exploration. That means we’ve begun collecting samples of alien worlds and bringing them back to Earth for further study.
The largest mission of this kind, and the one everyone is looking forward to, is the Mars Sample Return. It’s a mammoth undertaking that won’t begin to unfold until the end of the decade, so there’s some waiting to be done still. Until then, we can warm up with something called the OSIRIS-REx.
That would be a spacecraft that departed Earth in 2016, heading toward a piece of floating rock called Bennu, The asteroid is believed to be a remnant from the early days of our solar system, a piece of history 4.5 billion years old.
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