A capsule carrying samples from a near-Earth asteroid returned to the ground, landing in the Utah Desert on Sunday. This is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission through which it hopes to learn how our planet and solar system formed, as well as the origin of organics that may have led to life on Earth.
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security–Regolith Explorer) spacecraft briefly touched the Bennu asteroid’s surface and collected a sample of rock and dust from the asteroid in 2020. Today, it sped past Earth and jettisoned its sample capsule containing material from the asteroid.
After undergoing thorough sanitisation to eliminate any potentially harmful effects, the collected samples will find a secure home in a dedicated curation laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. This specialised facility is designed to ensure the preservation of these samples in pristine condition. In due course, they will be made available to scientists across the globe, with a significant portion reserved for future generations to explore and study, the US space agency said in a statement.
Asteroid samples could help unravel the mystery behind the Solar System formation as they are believed to be celestial leftovers from the early days of our Solar System formation, dating back around 4.5 billion years. Thus, a sample directly brought from an asteroid can provide valuable insights
Asteroids, in a sense, act as time capsules, preserving the ancient history of our solar system and potentially containing clues about the precursor materials of life, says NASA.
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