KCBS_740 SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — NASA is preparing for a Thursday night launch of a spacecraft on two-year mission to get a sample from an asteroid and return it to the earth.

The spacecraft is scheduled to get the sample from asteroid Bennu in 2018, and then return it in September of 2023.

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Dante Lauretta, the principle investigator for the mission, says when the spacecraft reaches the asteroid an arm will extend to the surface, blow a gas and collect the loose material.

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“By the act of putting our TAGSAM (touch-and-go sample acquisition mechanism) device onto the surface of the asteroid to collect a sample, in and of itself we’re conducting a fantastic science experiment,” Lauretta said.

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Scientist are hoping to learn about the formation of earth from the primordial material from the asteroid.