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Follow asteroid-bound Osiris-Rex slingshotting around Earth

NASA's spacecraft gets a gravity boost from home as it buzzes by this week on its way to sample a space rock.

Last year, NASA launched the spacecraft Osiris-Rex on a mission to bump into the asteroid Bennu, pickpocket a hunk of the space rock and map it in the process. This week it's swinging back by Earth to use our planet's gravity to help slingshot it toward Bennu.

Telescopes and astronomers on Earth were already straining to see the car-size craft as it approached from millions of miles away earlier this month. By Wednesday, the images of its approach were becoming much clearer, as seen in the below GIF captured by the Spacewatch 0.9-m telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona:

Osiris-Rex is seen against the night sky from Arizona on Wednesday.

Mike Read/Spacewatch

Osiris-Rex dipped below geosynchronous orbit, where most satellites hang out, on Friday morning above Australia. It will then make a sort of loop for its closest approach to the surface, over Antarctica at 9:52 a.m PT. From there it starts heading up and out of our neighborhood over the Pacific Ocean, Asia and northern Africa. You can check out the flight path below:


For more on tracking Osiris-Rex, understanding its weird name or the plan to pickpocket an asteroid, you can join a NASA Facebook live event Friday at 9 a.m. PT:

OSIRIS-REx NASA Facebook Live Promo.gif

Today at Noon ET: Learn about our OSIRIS-REx mission as it slingshots around Earth towards asteroid Bennu. Watch the Facebook Live:

Posted by NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday, September 22, 2017

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