NASA will broadcast OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample collection attempt

NASA has announced that it will broadcast coverage of OSIRIS-REx as it attempts to collect a sample from the surface of an asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, October 20, at 6:12 PM EDT. Live coverage of the spacecraft's descent to the asteroid surface for its TAG or Touch-And-Go maneuver will be broadcast on NASA Television and via the NASA website.

The TAG maneuver will be managed by Lockheed Martin Space near Denver, Colorado, and will begin at 5 PM. The landing process starts with an orbit departure maneuver around 1:50 PM. The landing sequences are highly complicated and will be covered on @osirisrex on Twitter. NASA says the public can ask questions using the hashtag #tobennuandback.

OSIRIS-REx is a large spacecraft roughly the size of a 15-passenger van. It's currently orbiting asteroid Bennu at a distance of about 200 million miles from Earth. NASA wants to recover samples from the asteroid because it contains material from the early solar system and could contain molecular precursors to life and Earth's oceans.

Bennu is approximately as tall as the Empire State Building and thus potentially threatens Earth. Late in the next century, there is a one-in-2700 chance that Bennu will impact the planet during one of its close approaches. Live social media question and answer session will be aired on NASA TV and will run between 4:45 and 5:30 PM.

The live stream broadcast will feature animation that shows sample collection activities in real-time and commences as the spacecraft gets into position for the Orbit Departure Maneuver. Between 5 PM and 6:30 PM, a live broadcast of the descent to the asteroid's surface will be aired. NASA has offered details that people should know about Bennu, including that it's very dark. The asteroid is also very, very old, having been mostly undisturbed for billions of years. This will be an exciting mission.