‘I literally broke into tears’: The scientist leading NASA’s epic OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission just had the greatest day ever

DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah  — The atmosphere was electric at the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground as all eyes were on the OSIRIS-REx mission’s sample return capsule during its 83-mile (133 kilometers) descent from space to the desert floor. Nearly twenty years of planning, problem-solving and patience culminated in a dramatic and highly-choreographed recovery operation that took place at one of the most remote and isolated army bases in the continental United States. 

Anxiety felt by onlookers was palpable as four helicopters operated by NASA and the U.S. Air Force took off just after 7 a.m. local time from the Michael Army Air Field. They were headed northwest into the barren sands of the U.S. Department of Defense’s sprawling Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) nearly an hour before a capsule containing priceless samples of asteroid Bennu was set to enter Earth’s atmosphere at 27,000 mph (43,450 km/h).

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