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How NASA's trip to a small asteroid may answer big questions about the origins of life on Earth

How NASA's trip to a small asteroid may answer big questions about the origins of life on Earth

Get ready for an interplanetary treasure hunt. On Thursday, NASA will launch its first mission to visit an asteroid and bring precious samples back to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx, set to launch around 7:05 p.m. EDT, will head to Bennu, a dark rubble-pile of an asteroid that stretches 492 meters (1,614 feet) wide. After the spacecraft reaches and orbits the near-Earth asteroid in 2018 and carries samples back to Earth, scientists hope to develop a detailed profile to shed light on the early evolution of the solar system, clues to the origin of life and tools that will enable them to accurately track asteroids that come uncomfortably close to Earth.

The...

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