NASA probe will bring back pieces of an asteroid

Meet OSIRIS-REx, the NASA probe with the kingly name, which will be the first craft to visit an asteroid and bring pieces back to Earth. The probe, whose name stands for Origins Spectral-Interpretation Resource-Identification Security Regolith Explorer, launches in 2016.

NASA selected this proposal over two other candidates for its New Frontiers Program: a sample-collecting mission from the dark side of the Moon, and a visit to the surface of Venus. The probe will visit asteroid 1999 RQ36, which is expected to pass within 280,000 miles of Earth's orbit, and has thus been classified as a potentially hazardous object. Scientists believe RQ36 is rich in organic compounds, but we don't know which ones yet.

NASA scientists say this mission is an important step towards President Obama's goal of getting humans into deep space.

Image via NASA/AP Photos. [National Geographic]