NASA launches spacecraft on 7-year mission to visit asteroid

Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 00:56:18-04

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft is on its way to the space rock Bennu (BEHN'oo).

The Osiris-Rex explorer rocketed away from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday evening, just before sunset. It was the start of a seven-year quest to the big, black, unexplored asteroid. Once there, the spacecraft will gather a few handfuls of gravel for return to Earth.

These bite-size bits of ancient space rock — due here in 2023 if all goes well — could hold clues to the origin of life.

Thousands gathered to witness the evening launch of Osiris-Rex, a robotic hunter resembling a bird. It took flight atop an Atlas V (five) rocket. Among the well-wishers: Mike Puzio, the 12-year-old North Carolina boy who won a contest to name the asteroid.


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