NASA is sending a little dirt-collecting robot to an asteroid called Bennu

Tomorrow, NASA is launching a spacecraft to an asteroid that’s just a little taller than the Empire State Building. It’s called “Bennu.” The $800 million mission is designed to collect 2 ounces from the surface of the asteroid that will help us better understand the origins of our planet. 

The asteroid is a remnant of the earliest days of our solar system and the samples that return will be analyzed for clues about what happened at that time. Scientists have speculated that asteroids colliding with Earth delivered the first water or organic matter. Bennu might hold answers. (The image above is an artist’s rendering of a young Earth being bombarded by asteroids.)

But we’ll have to wait a long time to begin studying these samples. The craft, which is named OSIRIS-REx, will only reach Bennu in two years from now and will return to Earth in September 2023. 

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[Image via NASA]ES