NASA recovers Bennu asteroid sample from OSIRIS-REx's return to Earth

A NASA spacecraft returned to Earth on Sunday after a years-long mission to a nearby asteroid.

A capsule containing pieces from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu separated from the spacecraft known as the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer, or the OSIRIS-REx, and entered Earth's atmosphere.

The capsule parachuted into the Utah Test and Training Range in Utah's West Desert.

Scientists recovered the sample from the landing, and the sample will be sent to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

OSIRIS-REx will release its sample capsule and enter Earth orbit on Sept. 24, 2023. The capsule, protected by a heat shield, will plummet to Earth. It will land by parachute at the Utah Test and Training Range, 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, where the sample will be recovered and taken to Houston for analysis.
OSIRIS-REx will release its sample capsule and enter Earth orbit on Sept. 24, 2023. The capsule, protected by a heat shield, will plummet to Earth. It will land by parachute at the Utah Test and Training Range, 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, where the sample will be recovered and taken to Houston for analysis.

What was OSIRIS-REx doing on Bennu?

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched Sept. 8, 2016, and traveled to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, formerly named 1999 RQ36. On Oct. 20, 2020, the spacecraft landed on Bennu, using its robotic arm to collect a sample of rocks and dust from space.

According to NASA, the mission was to help scientists investigate "how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth."

More: How NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will bring Bennu asteroid sample back to Earth

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: OSIRIS-REx returned to Earth from Bennu: Watch NASA livestream