The University of Arizona took the lead in a mission to grab a sample of an asteroid and bring it to Earth for analysis. Now that sample has landed safely on a Federal Government range in Utah.

Near 6th and Drachman, people who worked on the Osiris Rex mission gathered in a building that was mission headquarters for many years of Osiris Rex flight to the asteroid Bennu.

They cheered as critical moments came down the NASA feed: confirmation that the parachute opened correctly, and that the capsule with the sample had slowed to a safe touchdown. It landed roughly 8am Arizona time.

The sample return system had to slow the capsule from fiery re-entry at about 27,000 miles per house to a safe, soft landing.

Scientists will fly the sample to Houston where they will open the capsule in the same lab NASA still uses to handle and analyze samples astronauts brought back from the moon.

By midweek scientists expect to have preliminary findings from the asteroid dust collected from the outside of the capsule.

The lab at UA Lunar and Planetary Sciences is preparing to examine what the Osiris Rex probe sends back.

UA plans to get a lot of value out of a tiny bit of material. The amount of material they expect to get is about 15 grams, maybe a little more. Heres some perspective on that 15 grams: it is the weight of six pennies.

University of Arizona designed and led the Osiris Rex mission. The spacecraft completed a nearly seven year round trip to grab a sample of the asteroid Bennu. The sample grab worked so well the probe collected much more than predicted.

The part of the Osiris Rex spacecraft that did not come back to Earth has a new mission ahead. Its in such good condition, with so much fuel left, that it will head out again to examine another asteroid called Apophis. That asteroid will come within 20,000 miles of Earth six years from now.

The asteroid missions have several goals. Besides learning more about asteroid materials, they aim to learn more about the fine points of how asteroids move through space.

Understanding the materials can offer clues to how the planets, and even life, formed. Understanding how asteroids move could help us learn how to divert an asteroid that may hit the Earth.