Well, this is interesting.
Following a preliminary assessment, NASA announced that asteroid samples taken by its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from the asteroid Bennu are rich in both water and carbon — “the building blocks of life on Earth.” Success announcement.
Research supports the theory that space rocks like Bennu, which have been hitting Earth for thousands of years, may have played an important role in the development of life on our home planet.
The samples, as seen in a newly released image showing the exterior of the spacecraft’s sample collector, contain carbon-rich, hydrated clay minerals, with carbon accounting for about five percent by weight.
“The OSIRIS-REx model is the largest carbon-rich asteroid model ever delivered to Earth, and it will help scientists study the origins of life on our home planet for generations to come,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
The collapse problem
OSIRIS-REx, relaunched in 2016, spent two years screeching through the Solar System to reach the 1,650-foot-across asteroid. In 2020, its collection system, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), probed the asteroid’s surface and collected 8.8 ounces of material.
Last month, the shuttle’s precious cargo touched down in the Utah desert. Since then, scientists have analyzed the results and dug up samples inside a clean lab. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is now on its way to another asteroid called Apophis.
Today’s announcement is an exciting, albeit early, sign that the work has already been a huge success. In fact, scientists have yet to open TAGSAM, after finding numerous samples in the container that holds it, slowing the ongoing analysis.
“The science we’re getting a glimpse of during the mission so far is just the beginning of the wealth of knowledge we can expect from OSIRIS-REx,” said Eileen Stansbury, chief scientist at the Johnson Space Center. During today’s announcement.
More about the work: Scientists are surprised by the abundance of material in the asteroid sample
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