Image copyright NASA Image caption This image was taken as the probe reached orbit
NASA has launched a spacecraft to crash into an asteroid to collect samples, and hopes the mission will provide information on life in the solar system.
The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) flew into orbit around the Earth on Monday morning, NASA said.
The probe’s 50cm, or 1.8ft, diameter mission carries a titanium harpoon and sensors designed to detect whether the space rock has been hit.
The probe will crash on the asteroid Bennu in 2020.
New research on the asteroid will reveal its chemical composition.
Images will be sent back to Earth, and Osiris-Rex will revisit the space rock in 2024.
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Ian Crawford, from Imperial College London, said: “Understanding the composition of asteroids makes sense for understanding the origin of planets.
“Asteroids might not be our evolutionary ancestors’ homes – but they might be the secret ingredients our Earth and our solar system was built from.”
Watch the scientist leading the mission being interviewed here