NASA discussing September arrival of OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample: Watch live today

NASA will discuss the impending arrival of the asteroid sample collected by its OSIRIS-REx probe during a press conference today (Aug. 30), and you can watch it live.

That sample — about 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of dirt and gravel snagged from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu in October 2020 — is scheduled to land in the U.S. Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range on Sept. 24.

NASA will preview the highly anticipated event today, during a 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) press conference held at the Utah site. You can watch it live here at, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the agency

Related: Dramatic sampling shows asteroid Bennu is nothing like scientists expected

Recovery teams participate in field rehearsals in preparation for the retrieval of the sample return capsule from NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission, Tuesday, July 18, 2023, at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range. The sample was collected from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020 by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and will return to Earth on September 24th, landing under parachute at the Utah Test and Training Range. (Image credit: NASA/Keegan Barber)

Participating in today's OSIRIS-REx press conference are:  

  • Melissa Morris, OSIRIS-REx program executive, NASA Headquarters, Washington
  • Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, University of Arizona, Tucson
  • Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx program manager, Lockheed Martin, Littleton, Colorado
  • Kevin Righter, OSIRIS-REx deputy curation lead, NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston

These folks are in Utah already for a very good reason: They're practicing for the big day.

"During the week of Aug. 30, the OSIRIS-REx mission team is testing their landing and recovery plans with the goal of reducing the time to safely retrieve the sample capsule from the desert floor and transport it to a clean room on base, protecting the rocks and dust collected from the surface of Bennu from earthly contaminants," NASA officials wrote in a blog post.

OSIRIS-REx launched in September 2016, kicking off an ambitious mission to explore Bennu, a potentially hazardous asteroid about 1,650 feet (500 meters) wide.

The mission's full name reveals the breadth of its goals and tasks: "Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer." The "origins" part, for example, refers to Bennu's status as a primitive, carbon-rich asteroid, the type that may have seeded Earth with the building blocks of life long ago through impacts. Scientists will hunt for signs of these building blocks — carbon-containing organic molecules — in OSIRIS-REx's sample, once it's down on the ground.

And "security" is a nod to Bennu's potentially hazardous nature: Learning more about this space rock could inform our efforts to deflect a dangerous asteroid away from Earth, which, experts stress, we'll need to do at some point in the future.

OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in early December 2018, then slipped into orbit around the space rock four weeks later. 

Bennu is the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. And OSIRIS-REx set another record during its visit as well: It performed the closest-ever orbit of a small body, skimming just 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) above the asteroid's rubbly surface.

OSIRIS-REx took the space rock's measure from orbit for nearly two years. Then, in October 2020, it dove down for an epic sample grab — and nearly got swallowed up by the surprisingly spongy Bennu in the process. 

But OSIRIS-REx survived its encounter. The probe departed Bennu in May 2021 and began the long journey back toward Earth. While its sample capsule will touch down here next month, the probe itself will keep on flying; it will head toward a second potentially dangerous asteroid, the notorious Apophis, arriving at the space rock in 2029. 

OSIRIS-REx will study Apophis up close, gathering yet more data that could teach us about the solar system's formation and evolution — and, potentially, help us defend our planet down the road.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.