Officially known as 101955 Bennu, the asteroid has roughly the size of the Empire State Building and has a "not insignificant probability of impact on Earth". In fact, Bennu is in second place in the scale of danger of the technical impact of Palermo – in practice the ranking of the Earth of "what will wipe us all away?"
So if we had the chance to visit it, surely we would send a ragtag squad of miners to blow up, rather than travel seven years to collect some dirt from the top?
But remember, this is NASA we're talking about!
In this week's episode of Watch This Space, let's take a look at OSIRIS-REx, NASA's mission to establish contact with Bennu (for all five seconds) to collect dust from asteroid from the surface and bring it back to Earth.
It might seem like a long way to go for some dust, but this material (known as "regolite") could tell us a lot. According to NASA, asteroids are essentially "the remaining remnants of the formation process of the solar system", so their composition can shed light on the history of our solar system, how it was formed and even on how planets like the Earth.
OSIRIS-REx (which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer spacecraft) arrived in Bennu on December 3rd and will spend a little less than a year in the observation of the 39; asteroid for a suitable space to touch. When it finds the perfect point, the spacecraft will come into contact with the surface of the asteroid for about five seconds, sending an explosion of nitrogen gas to disturb dust and pebbles on the surface to be captured in the spacecraft and bring it back to earth.
At the end of his seven-year mission, NASA scientists will be able to examine this material and learn more from where we came and potentially could also find "molecular precursors to the origin of life and the Earth's oceans. "according to NASA.
If you want to learn more about the other amazingly interesting things about NASA and other space agencies, you can take a look at the Watch This Space series on YouTube.
NASA turns 60: the space agency has conquered humanity farther than anyone else, and intends to go further.
Take him to extremes: mix insane situations – eruption of volcanoes, nuclear collapses, waves of 30 feet – with everyday technology. Here's what happens.