The big picture: NASA launched OSIRIS-REx back in 2016 with the goal of collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu and returning it to Earth for analysis. Scientists hope the sample will provide additional clues about the formation of the solar system and perhaps how life originated on Earth.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft has successfully completed a key objective of its mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth.

NASA in a recent press release said the Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event took place on October 20, at which time the craft touched down on the surface of asteroid Bennu for a period of about six seconds. Immediately after contact, the craft fired a burst of nitrogen gas to stir up loose particles for collection.

The craft landed within three feet of its target location. That level of precision is impressive considering the fact that Bennu is more than 200 million miles away from Earth. For context, the sun is roughly 93 million miles from Earth.

NASA has shared a sequence of 82 images that illustrates the moment of impact and the collection process.

Mission teams will now evaluate the sample. If sufficient, they will begin the process of navigating the craft back home with a scheduled return window of September 2023.