NASA has just achieved the seemingly impossible, sending spacecraft 200 million miles away to a potentially earth destroying asteroid.
Touching down in a spot the size of a few car parking spaces and snatching up a sample of space dirt all in a matter of seconds.
NASA wants to know how the solar system and life on Earth was formed and it thinks that this asteroid Bennu might hold the answer.
NASA's Osiris Rex spacecraft briefly touched down on bento on Tuesday in a touch and go or tag MANOVA Bumped to the asteroid with an 11 foot long arm that collected a rock sample from the surface.
It's the first time NASA has ever retrieved a sample from an asteroid in space, and it could hold the key to the secrets of the universe.
NASA chose bento out of more than half a million known asteroids in our solar system because it was close to Earth relatively speaking.
And because it has the kind of composition that NASA really wants to study Beto is what's called a rubble pile asteroid, a rocky mass about a third of a mile wide that was formed when our solar system was less than 10 million years old.
It's been floating around in space pretty much undisturbed for 4.5 billion years.
NASA calls it a time capsule.
A perfect artifact that could still contain the same molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth.
Not only could this asteroid hold the key to the first life on Earth, it could be what ends it.
But don't worry, there's a very slim chance of that happening.
Then it was classified as a near Earth object which is defined as a potentially hazardous object that could come within 4.6 million miles of Earth.
benu is ranked number two on the Palermo technical impact hazard scale.
That's basically a ranking of the space objects most likely to hurtle towards Earth, but it only has a one in 2700 chance of hitting Earth.
Or better put a 99.96% chance of missing us, and even then it won't happen till at least 2175.
But the Osiris Rex mission isn't about knocking the asteroid away from Earth.
It's about retrieving a sample of extra terrestrial debris from the asteroid surface.
And that is an incredibly difficult task.
NASA had originally expected to have a large landing area to work with on banner, potentially the size of a car park.
But when the spacecraft got up close to the asteroid high resolution images from the Croft showed that landing would be much tougher, thanks to huge boulders on the surface.
The landing area went from a 100 space parking lot to the area of about five parking spaces.
to complete its touchdown.
The spacecraft left orbit descended to the asteroid surface and navigated to the landing site.
And then things got even more precise with Osiris Rex using its tag Sam or touch and go sample acquisition mechanism to pick up debris from the surface.
The tax M is 11 foot long, designed to touch down on the surface of the asteroid and collect working material known as regolith.
In fact, that's where Osiris Rex gets its name.
It might sound like a dinosaur, but the Rex part of Osiris Rex stands for regolith Explorer.
To retrieve the sample from bene the tag, Sam, press down onto the asteroid and released a blast of nitrogen gas onto the surface.
That gas blew up a cloud of dust and pebbles which were then captured by the spacecraft to be stored for return to earth.
It sounds really slow and precise, but this entire touchdown process took just a matter of seconds.
After the touchdown, the onboard Sam cam will capture images to see whether the spacecraft managed to collect any material.
Then Osiris Rex will do a spin maneuver to find out the mess of the material collected.
If the collection isn't successful, Osiris Rex has two more chances to bump and grind into bento.
Hopefully collecting at least two ounces or 60 grams of asteroid material for the trip home.
And if it is successful, this space dust will be safely tucked away inside the spacecraft to be brought back to Earth in September 2023.
From there NASA astronauts will get hands on with some of the most fascinating space rocks they've seen since the Apollo astronauts brought those samples back from the moon.
and with any luck, this precious asteroid debt could just hold the key to how life in our solar system really started.