NASA has identified the safest and most accessible spots to collect a sample of the asteroid, before returning it to Earth.
It’s often referred to as the ‘doomsday asteroid ’, but that hasn’t stopped NASA from exploring the Bennu space rock.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at the space rock back in December 2018 and has since mapped the entire asteroid.
These scans have helped NASA to identify the safest and most accessible spots to collect a sample of the asteroid, before returning it to Earth.
Before OSIRIS-REx reached Bennu, NASA believed that the asteroid's surface likely contained large ‘ponds’ of sand-like material.
However, the spacecraft’s earliest images confirmed that Bennu has a rocky terrain, making it trickier for NASA to find suitable sampling sites.
Rich Burns, project manager, said: “Although OSIRIS-REx was designed to collect a sample from an asteroid with a beach-like area, the extraordinary in-flight performance to date demonstrates that we will be able to meet the challenge that the rugged surface of Bennu presents.
“That extraordinary performance encompasses not only the spacecraft and instruments but also the team who continues to meet every challenge that Bennu throws at us."
NASA has now pinpointed four sample sites, which are all named after birds native to Egypt - Nightingale, Kingfisher, Osprey, and Sandpiper.
These sites have diverse locations and geological features, according to NASA.
Nightingale is the northern-most site and is made up of a fine-grain, dark material, while Kingfisher is located in a boulder that’s largely free of rocks.
Meanwhile, Osprey has the most carbon-rich material, and Sandpiper contains hydrated minerals, which indicate that the site may contain water.
OSIRIS-REx will now perform passes over the sites at lower altitudes, before collecting samples in the latter half of 2020.
The spacecraft is then scheduled to return the samples to Earth on September 4, 2023.
Bennu is often referred to as the 'doomsday asteroid' as there's a possibility that the space rock could smash into Earth as early as 2135.
Weighing an estimated 79 billion kilograms, Bennu could cause absolute havoc if it did hit our planet.
Thankfully, the chance of the asteroid actually hitting our planet have been estimated at 1 in 2,700.