NASA has achieved a significant milestone in space exploration by successfully retrieving the first-ever asteroid sample from the United States. The seven-year mission of the spacecraft “OSIRIS-REx” concluded with the safe landing of a capsule containing the precious cargo in a Utah desert on September 24. This achievement not only marks the completion of a historic mission but also signifies the beginning of an exciting new era in the field of astronomy.
The objective of this mission was the asteroid named Bennu. Chosen for its estimated age of 4.5 billion years, studying a sample from Bennu could provide valuable information about the early stages of our solar system. Additionally, the size and orbit of Bennu made it an ideal candidate for this mission, as it intersects Earth’s orbit periodically every six years. By studying Bennu, we could also gain insights to aid in the planning of future planetary defense missions, considering the slight possibility of a future collision between Bennu and our planet.
After safely retrieving the capsule, NASA used a helicopter to transport it to a cleanroom for examination and preservation. Subsequently, it was transferred to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for detailed analysis. In the coming weeks, scientists will meticulously examine and catalog every particle of the approximately 8.8 ounces of rock and dust stored within the container. While some fragments will be analyzed immediately, the remainder will be distributed among scientists worldwide for further study.
The analysis of these samples and the images captured during the mission will be shared with the public during a live broadcast on October 11. This significant achievement paves the way for future scientific discoveries and a deeper understanding of our solar system.
– Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator.
– Dante Lauretta, Principal Investigator of OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona.