A rocket set to take off Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral, Fla., is part of a mission by NASA and the University of Arizona to send a robot to an asteroid. The goal: Bring back ancient dust.

The asteroid is called Bennu, and it's basically a giant rubble pile, shaped something like a spinning top. But it's a very special rubble pile. Scientists believe it has been moving through space untouched for about 4.5 billion years, making it a time capsule from when our solar system was just starting to form.

Planetary Resoruces

A company devoted to space exploration is planning to make an orbiting telescope available to students, scientists, and space enthusiasts.

Bellevue-based asteroid mining company Planetary Resources hopes to eventually extract rare minerals from asteroids. But first the company must prospect, which will involve a fleet of space-based telescopes. Now the company has announced it will deploy an extra telescope for public use, paid for by a crowdfunding campaign on the website Kickstarter.

The Associated Press

Whether they ever manage to get any platinum out of an asteroid, Bellevue-based Planetary Resources could become known for surrounding Earth with telescopes.  

That’s the first item in the “prospecting” stage of the space company’s effort to get precious metals from asteroids, using robotic space-craft.

From Slate, NASA has released a short video (above) of the 1,300-foot-wide asteroid that came within 202,000 miles of Earth this week.