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NASA probe delivers asteroid sample — and moves on

Seven years and 4 billion miles after its launch, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has successfully dropped off a capsule containing a precious sample of one near-Earth asteroid — and is now on course to rendezvous with another one in 2029.

Rocket thrusters built at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility in Redmond, Wash., have been guiding the bus-sized probe every step of the way.

Today marked the climax of OSIRIS-REx — which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer. The billion-dollar mission is designed to let scientists examine pristine stuff from a space rock that could shed light on the chemistry of the primordial solar system, and give them a better idea of the resources that could someday be gleaned from asteroids.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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