We may have to wait a bit longer for this to happen, however; the spacecraft isn't scheduled to touch Earth's surface again until 2023.
The drama unfolds from tomorrow as the U.S. takes its first crack at collecting asteroid samples for return to Earth, a feat accomplished so far only by Japan.
You can watch this sample collection "Touch-And-Go" maneuver October 20 at 5 p.m. EDT/ 2 p.m. PDT on NASA Television and the agency's website.
The OSIRIS-REx spaceship will go through these maneuvers independently and must ultimately decide whether it is safe or not.
"It's about understanding our origins", said Dante Loretta of the University of Arizona.
Bennu has been mostly undisturbed for billions of years, so Bennu could be made of material that contains molecules that were present when life on Earth first formed, NASA says.
Scientists believe that asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could help prove that theory.
When OSIRIS-REx blasted off in 2016 for its more-than-$800-million mission, scientists envisioned sandy stretches at Bennu.
Whereas NASA has introduced again comet mud and photo voltaic wind particles, it's by no means tried to pattern one of many nearly 1 million identified asteroids lurking in our photo voltaic system till now.
NASA selected UArizona to lead the mission in 2011, with Drake at the helm.
OSIRIS-REx was conceptualized as early as 2004, which is 16 years ago from today. He would unquestionably make his predecessor proud.
The Osiris-Rex mission will see the spacecraft drop onto the asteroid, scoop up a piece of rubble, and stash it away so that it can be brought back down to Earth.
While this would be the first attempt to collect dirt from Bennu, asteroid sample collection isn't new.
If sample collection is planned, the head and sample will be placed in the sample return capsule to return to Earth and sealed. It has been a privilege and an absolute delight to observe and learn from the accomplishments of our colleagues in Japan. "We will also have a very good indication of the exact location of the nightingale where we contacted and we can compare it with our sample map, to assess if we touch an area where there is a lot of sample material". But the scientific process - and nature itself - is full of surprises, some challenging, all wondrous.
Powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will execute its long awaited sample collection of asteroid Bennu on October 20. The Nightingale landing site is under threat, so the mission will need to run smoothly.
On Dec. 12, 2019, the OSIRIS-REx team announced the chosen landing site: Nightingale. There are large boulders like buildings on the target Downtown zone. The team, which includes hundreds of faculty, researchers and students from UArizona and several partner institutions, affectionately refers to this boulder as "Mount Doom".
Osiris-Rex as a concept has been around since at least in 2004 when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA.
This set of stereoscopic images provides a 3D view of the 170-foot (52-meter) boulder that juts from asteroid Bennu's southern hemisphere and the rocky slopes that surround it.
Things could go wrong on October 20.
The astronaut collector's head will capture the inflamed material.
Small disks that can collect dust like sticky pads are also on the head in case part of the sampling maneuver does not go according to plan.
The age-old adage rings true: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Osiris-Rex is equipped with three nitrogen canisters that fire and destroy surfaces.
This image shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's sampling arm - called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM) - and asteroid Bennu during the mission's checkpoint rehearsal.