NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has chalked up quite a win, evidenced by the utterly fascinating make-up of the asteroid sample snatched from Bennu. This feat was NASA’s inaugural run at returning asteroid samples, duly marking it as an epoch-making milestone in the agency’s bid to explore what lies out there.
With an engaging live webcast event back on the 11th of October, NASA offered the curious public a sneak-peek at that Bennu sample. Plus, they unveiled some first analysis outcomes performed on this other-wordly substance. The initial findings – pretty promising indeed! Turns out, Bennu boats loads of water and other chemicals rich with carbonoy goodness! So following these striking revelations, no BBQs about it – our pal Bennu’s sure become an essential focus in probing for nuggets info circling life’s earth-bound beginnings.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized the immense potential of this mission, describing the OSIRIS-REx sample as the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth. This remarkable haul will enable scientists to delve into the fundamental questions regarding the origins of life on our planet for generations to come.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in September 2016, arrived at Bennu in December 2018 after 22 months of meticulous study and analysis from orbit. The sample collection from Bennu took place in October 2020, presenting unexpected challenges due to the asteroid’s porous surface. Despite these challenges, the spacecraft managed to secure a substantial sample.
Wrapping up its trek back to Earth, the return capsule touched down in Utah on September 24 of 2023. After this journey’s completion, the encapsulated specimens were promptly whisked over to NASA’s Johnson Space Center nestled in Houston, and there it geared up for more examinations. On-going studies are still trying to suss out details about these extra-terrestrial findings – current estimates peg their weight at around a healthy chunk of 250 grams. That’s no small victory either; picturesquely surpassing the mission prerequisites that modestly asked for just about 60 grams.
As we peer into the forthcoming months and even years, pieces of Bennu’s sample will be spread far and wide to researchers for in-depth analysis. And it ain’t just about handing over a lump of space rock—oh no! We’re talking about unravelling enigmatic mysteries here—the carbon compounds nestled within that very asteroid could reveal how life sparked into existence on Earth. Moreover, understanding what Bennu is made of gives us valuable knowledge regarding our solar system’s evolution—it’s kinda like paging through our cosmic ancestry, really. Now don’t go thinking this OSIRIS-REx mission is finished – not by a long shot! It still has got biz with another space wanderer named Apophis in 2029 as part of an ASAP extended trip dubbed ‘OSIRIS-APEX’.