How NASA Brings Parts Of The Universe Home
NASA's latest way to get extraterrestrial samples back to Earth basically involves poking an asteroid with a pogo stick.By Evan Thomas | August 2, 2016
The upcoming OSIRIS-REx mission, scheduled to launch in September, will be the first time NASA has retrieved samples from an asteroid. But NASA also has plenty of experience collecting other bits of the solar system.
Sometimes the easiest way to get samples from other cosmic bodies is to wait for them to come to us. That's how we got samples from asteroid Vesta: An ancient impact scattered chunks of it into space that eventually landed on Earth as meteorites.
But sample-return-by-meteorite can take millions of years and lots of luck. So NASA started running its own sample-collection missions with the Apollo program. All told, astronauts shoveled almost 850 pounds of moon rocks and dust into bags and brought them back for study.