NASA will launch the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid Bennu on Thursday to bring a small sample back for study.
Bolted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will lift off on September 8, 2016, at 7:05 p.m. EDT ( 4.35 a.m. Friday, India time), from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
As per NASA, the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security - Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will travel to Bennu (formerly 1999 RQ36), and bring at least a 2.1-ounce sample back to Earth for study.
If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will reach its asteroid target in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.
After arriving at Bennu , the 2,110-kg fully-fuelled spacecraft will spend over a year exploring the asteroid before approaching its surface to grab a sample.
“The launch of OSIRIS-REx is the beginning of a seven-year journey to return pristine samples from asteroid Bennu,” said OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson.
“The team has built an amazing spacecraft, and we are well-equipped to investigate Bennu and return with our scientific treasure,” Lauretta told in an earlier statement.
The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.