Home Computing NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Capsule Safely Lands on Earth with Precious Asteroid Samples

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Capsule Safely Lands on Earth with Precious Asteroid Samples

by Amelia Ramiro

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Capsule Safely Lands on Earth with Precious Asteroid Samples

A capsule containing precious samples from an asteroid successfully landed on Earth, marking a significant milestone in space exploration. The samples were collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which traveled approximately 4 billion miles over the past seven years. The dramatic event, likened to “opening a time capsule to our ancient solar system,” has the potential to unlock secrets about the origins of the solar system and the emergence of life on Earth.

The spacecraft, which unfurled its robotic arm on October 20, briefly touched the well-preserved asteroid known as Bennu, collecting dust and pebbles from its surface. Bennu, estimated to have formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s existence, provides a unique opportunity to understand the early days of our solar system. By studying the asteroid’s chemical and physical properties, scientists hope to gain insights into the science of asteroids and the broader understanding of our solar system.

One of the key questions researchers are seeking to answer is the role of asteroids in the emergence of life on Earth. It is theorized that asteroids and comets may have delivered water and building blocks of life to our planet. Bennu, in particular, is of interest because it is classified as a potentially hazardous object, with a small chance of impacting Earth in the future.

The sample return capsule from OSIRIS-REx is estimated to contain around 8.8 ounces of rocky material from Bennu. It will be transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, where scientists will analyze its contents. Although these are not the first samples returned from an asteroid (Japan’s Hayabusa mission accomplished this in 2010), the OSIRIS-REx mission marks NASA’s first successful asteroid sample collection.

Following the capsule’s delivery, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will continue its journey to investigate another asteroid called Apophis. As part of its extended mission, the spacecraft will measure Apophis’s orbit and use its gas thrusters to study rocky material from the asteroid.

This landmark achievement by NASA represents the culmination of years of planning, engineering, and scientific research. The successful collection and safe return of asteroid samples provide an invaluable opportunity to deepen our understanding of the solar system’s formation, the origins of life, and the potential impact of asteroids on Earth. The data and insights gained from studying these precious samples will undoubtedly shape future space exploration endeavors and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Sources:
– Science NBC News: Denise Chow, Julianne McShane contributed.
– Definitions: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft, Bennu.

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