America’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft has completed its audacious tag-and-go manoeuvre designed to grab surface rock from an asteroid.
Radio signals from 330 million km away confirm the probe made contact with the 500m-wide object known as Bennu.
But the Nasa-led mission will have to wait on further data from Osiris-Rex before it’s known for sure that material was actually picked up.
The aim was to acquire at least 60g, perhaps even a kilo or more.
Because Bennu is a very primitive space object, scientists say its surface grit and dust could hold fascinating clues about the chemistry that brought the Sun and the planets into being more than 4.5 billion years ago.
Assuming there is a suitable sample safely aboard, the probe will be able to package it for return to Earth, scheduled for 2023.
If not, the mission team will have to configure Osiris-Rex for another go.