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The New Horizons spacecraft

The finding could pose problems for plans to scoop up a sample of the asteroid’s surface material and deliver it’s back to Earth, researchers stated. Since they’d believed that Bennu could be dusty, OSIRIS REx does not have a mechanism for breaking up large rocks. The mission team instead plans to give Bennu something like an air kiss, employing a puff of gas to boost a cloud of dusty material and put it in a capsule which will ultimately be sent back home. The team will need to spend the following year or so attentively seeking a site which contains the right type of material for this sample collection process.

And once it comes time to really grab the sample, in 2020, spacecraft operators may have a tough time navigating Bennu’s rough terrain. But NASA assured reporters on Tuesday that it’s up to the challenge. The first 3 months of OSIRIS REx’s up close investigation of Bennu have educated us what discovery is about surprises, fast thinking, and flexibility, said Lori Glaze, Acting Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. The New Horizons spacecraft is already speeding away from MU69, a resident of a shadowy and a remote area called the Kuiper belt which surrounds the solar system beyond Neptune. The probe is so far from Earth it can take more than half an hour for signs from the spacecraft to achieve scientists on the floor. But as data trickled down to Earth in the months since New Horizon’s historic flyby, scientists have slowly built a picture of the very distant body ever explored.