The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is getting ready to launch its first mission to return asteroid samples to Earth. On Sept. 8 at 7:05 PM EDT, the agency’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission aims to understand how planets formed and how life started, as well as to improve our knowledge about asteroids that could hit Earth. Overall, the mission will take seven years to accomplish.

The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft weighs up to 2,110 kilograms. It will reach Bennu in 2018 and return to Earth in 2023. Once it spotted the best sample sites, the spacecraft will use its robotic arm to gather between two and 70 ounces or between 60 and 2,000 grams of surface material.

“This mission exemplifies our nation’s quest to boldly go and study our solar system and beyond to better understand the universe and our place in it,” points out Geoff Yoder, the acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA science is the greatest engine of scientific discovery on the planet and OSIRIS-REx embodies our directorate’s goal to innovate, explore, discover and inspire.”

The Lockheed Martin Space Systems built OSIRIS-Rex while Goddard handles overall mission management, safety as well as systems engineering. The mission’s principal investigator is Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Asteroid Bennu was recently seen in the news as the asteroid that will one day destroy life on Earth. However, experts assert that an asteroid hitting Earth is unlikely.

According to scientists, Bennu only has a one in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth. And this won’t happen in another 150 years, they add.

We do not have the right tools to prevent any asteroid impact currently but when the asteroid comes to Earth in the year 2135, scientists are optimistic that we have already developed the technology to prevent such impact.