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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Touching The Asteroid

OSIRIS-REx approaching Bennu, artist’s rendition.
Courtesy of NASA
OSIRIS-REx approaching Bennu, artist’s rendition.

Stream or tune in Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, Oct. 25 at 2 p.m. on KPBS TV + Oct. 25 at 9 p,.m. on KPBS 2

It is a mission that might prove impossible.

In the fall of 2020, a NASA spacecraft called OSIRIS-REx attempts to reach out and grab a piece of an asteroid named Bennu and bring it back to Earth. The OSIRIS-REx team has just three chances to extend its spacecraft’s specialized arm, touch down for five seconds, and collect material from the surface of Bennu. Can they pull it off?

NOVA takes you inside the mission as the team plans its approach: They must map the asteroid’s surface, choose possible collection sites, and rehearse the risky maneuver.

If the collection is successful, scientists could gain great insight into Earth’s own origins — and even learn to defend against rogue asteroids that may one day threaten our planet. 

Watch On Your Schedule:

This episode will be available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast, for a limited time.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Conversation:

NASA's OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission is on Facebook. Follow @OSIRISREx on Twitter. #ToBennuAndBack

NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter. #NOVAnext