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OSIRIS-REx begins round-trip flight to asteroid

Image: OSIRIS-REx launch
An Atlas 5 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, sending NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe into space. (Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA)

NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx probe today on America’s first mission to snag samples from a near-Earth asteroid and bring them back to Earth – and added a Star Trek twist.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, tricked out with a single solid rocket booster, sent up the car-sized spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:05 p.m. ET (4:05 p.m. PT) today. Crowds gathered around the launch site to watch, and myriads more kept an eye on NASA TV’s video stream.

As NASA launch commentator Mike Curie announced OSIRIS-REx’s liftoff, he gave a nod to the “Star Trek” TV saga, which made its U.S. premiere 50 years ago today.

“Its seven-year mission: to boldly go to the asteroid Bennu and back,” said Curie, echoing the show’s traditional intro.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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