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October 20, 2020

OSIRIS-REx and the Challenge to Sample an Asteroid

How do you touch down and sample an asteroid?

Just over four years ago, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft — short for Origins, Spectral interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer — set out for the small, top-shaped asteroid called Bennu to collect a sample from its surface. But that simple concept in words belies the physical challenges of these small asteroids that scientists and engineers had to overcome.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, along with colleagues in Canada and across the United States, played a critical part in developing a solution.

Watch the video below to find out how they used APL’s Small Body Mapping Tool and autonomous technology that together helped make the sampling mission possible.

Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

Media contact: Jeremy Rehm, 240-592-3997,

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit

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