Not to be outdone by their ESA colleagues, NASA is sending a spacecraft to an asteroid to bring a piece of it back. Her name is OSIRIS-REx, and she will be visiting Bennu — great name for an outpost in a sci-fi movie — one of the primordial asteroids that have been orbiting the sun for millions of years.
This is why:
In the words of Edward Beshore, Deputy Principal Investigator for NASA’s asteroid-sample-return mission OSIRIS-REx:
On planets like Earth, the original materials have been profoundly altered by geologic activity and chemical reactions with our atmosphere and water. We think Bennu may be relatively unchanged, so this asteroid is like a time capsule for us to examine. By analysing the sample collected from Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx team will be able to examine some of the most pristine material to be found anywhere in the solar system.
In other words: Bennu is a time machine that will let us know how the solar system was right at its genesis. Can’t wait.