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NASA's Osiris-Rex is closer than ever to asteroid Bennu

The spacecraft will scoop up asteroid samples by mid-2020.

Osiris-Rex Bennu

Almost there: Osiris-Rex will be close enough to Bennu to scoop up samples in mid-2020.

NASA

NASA's asteroid mission is getting closer and closer, with the Osiris-Rex spacecraft lining up to collect samples from the Nightingale area of Bennu. On Tuesday, it will fly just 820 feet, or 250 meters, above Bennu's surface, Osiris-Rex tweeted.

Osiris-Rex, which last fall spotted an unexpected black hole located 30,000 light-years away, has also located water on Bennu.

NASA decided in December taht Osiris-Rex would collect samples at the Nightingale area of the asteroid, despite the location having "some hazards around it," according to principal investigator Dante Lauretta. Nightingale gives Osiris-Rex the best chance of getting its robot hands on "organic material and water-bearing material," NASA says.

Sample collection is scheduled for mid-2020, with Osiris-Rex to return to Earth in late 2023.