The team behind the project hope the sample will help answer some key questions about the make-up of the very early solar system.
NASA is putting the finishing touches to a spacecraft that will land on an asteroid for just five seconds to scan for the building blocks of life.
OSRIS-Rex will launch in September and travel to the Bennu asteroid to harvest samples from the surface.
It will only be in contact with the surface for a few seconds, enough time to vacuum up material from the targeted area.
The team behind the project hopes the sample will help answer some key questions about the make-up of the very early solar system.
Bennu is one of more than 700,000 asteroids traveling through our solar system, and was chosen as the target because it is the closest asteroid made of carbon.
The team puts the finishing touches to the spacecraft. Pic: NASA
The craft will hover over a specific area, descending “slowly and gently” at around 10cm per second.
As well as sucking up material, on board cameras will scan and map the surface of the asteroid.
Most asteroids are remnants of bodies of rock and metal that predate the formation of planets.
That means they can give an insight into what the solar system was like in its early years.
Dennis Reuter, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said: “The idea behind OSIRIS-Rex is to go to a pristine building block of the solar system to try to find out more about how they formed and to bring a sample back here to Earth.”
The entire system uses just 10 watts, less power than a light bulb needs.
Mr Reuter added: “‘We designed OVIRS to be robust and capable of lasting a long time in space.
“Think of how many times you turn on your computer and something doesn’t work right or it just won’t start up. We can’t have that type of thing happen during the mission.”