The long-anticipated rendezvous with the space rock occurred Monday around noon EST.
"We have arrived," Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and the principal investigator for the OSIRIS-REx mission, said in a tweet. "Let the exploration begin!"
OSIRIS-REx — the name is an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer — is now positioned less than 12 miles from Bennu, which itself is about 76 million miles from Earth in its orbit around the sun.
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The spacecraft — a roughly cube-shape craft about eight feet on each side — will spend about a year surveying and mapping Bennu. If all goes well, the craft will lower its 11-foot robotic arm to the surface of the 1,600-foot-wide asteroid for a few seconds in 2020 to suck up a sample of regolith (the dust and pebbles believed to make up the asteroid).