On Sept. 8, 2016, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe took off from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 41 just after 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT).
The $800 million mission is sending the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to the asteroid Bennu, with the probe arriving in 2018 and returning samples of the space rock to Earth by 2023. The mission is the first U.S. asteroid sample-return mission. See more photos of the launch in this gallery, including some views of OSIRIS-REx as it was prepared for flight.
With its successful launch, NASA's OSIRIS-REx begins a seven-year mission to the asteroid Bennu. The probe is due to arrive at the asteroid in 2018, spend two years studying the space rock and collecting samples, then return to Earth in 2023.
This wide view of the OSIRIS-REx launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket offers a spectacular sight as the asteroid probe begins its seven-year round trip to the asteroid Bennu and back.
The View from NASA's Causeway
NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission launches atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sept. 8, 2016 in this view from Karla Thompson captured from the nearby NASA Causeway.
Headed to Space
OSIRIS-REx begins its journey. It will reach the asteroid Bennu in 2018, and return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully started the OSIRIS-REx asteroid retrieval probe on its journey.
Getting Packed For the Trip
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers and technicians packed the OSIRIS-REx probe into the payload fairing that goes on top of an Atlas V rocket.
OSIRIS-REx Heads to Launch Complex 41
OSIRIS-REx, successfully loaded into the rocket fairing, left the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and began its trip to Space Launch Complex 41.
Topping the Rocket
The payload fairing containing NASA's OSIRIS-REx probe is shown here being raised atop the Atlas V rocket that carried it to space.
OSIRIS-REx Approaching Launchpad
The Atlas V rocket carrying the OSIRIS-REx probe was moved to the launchpad at Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 41 on Sept. 7, 2016.
OSIRIS-REx Ready to Launch
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket prepares to launch from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41, carrying NASA's asteroid retrieval probe, OSIRIS-REx.
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Calla Cofield joined Space.com's crew in October 2014. She enjoys writing about black holes, exploding stars, ripples in space-time, science in comic books, and all the mysteries of the cosmos. Prior to joining Space.com Calla worked as a freelance writer, with her work appearing in APS News, Symmetry magazine, Scientific American, Nature News, Physics World, and others. From 2010 to 2014 she was a producer for The Physics Central Podcast. Previously, Calla worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (hands down the best office building ever) and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Calla studied physics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is originally from Sandy, Utah. In 2018, Calla left Space.com to join NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory media team where she oversees astronomy, physics, exoplanets and the Cold Atom Lab mission. She has been underground at three of the largest particle accelerators in the world and would really like to know what the heck dark matter is. Contact Calla via: E-Mail – Twitter