Next year, NASA plans to collect a small batch of soil from an asteroid named Bennu, located millions of miles from Earth — and the agency now knows which part of the space rock it will steal. Today, the space agency announced that one of its spacecraft will attempt to collect particles from a 20-meter-wide crater, called Nightingale, on the asteroid.
Engineers chose the Nightingale site from four final candidate locations on Bennu, arguing that it could be the best place to find organic matter and water on the asteroid that could come from the early days of the solar system. “This one really came out on top, because of its scientific value,” Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the asteroid sampling mission, said at a news conference announcing the selection. However, aiming for the crater is not without risk. The area is surrounded by a large wall of rock, which could make taking a sample difficult. But ultimately, Lauretta said the area might have what she’s looking for.