Monday, September 25, 2023

1st US asteroid sample mission returns sample to Earth

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, the first U.S. mission to collect a sample from an asteroid, returned Bennu asteroid sample to Earth on Sunday.

This marks America's first sample return mission of its kind and "will open a time capsule to the beginnings of our solar system," said NASA.

The spacecraft released its sample capsule toward Earth at 6:42 a.m. Eastern Time (1042 GMT) from about 101,000 km of Earth's surface, about one-third the distance from Earth to the Moon, it said.

The capsule entered Earth's atmosphere as planned at 10:42 a.m. Eastern Time (1442 GMT) off the coast of California.

 Launched on Sept. 8, 2016, OSIRIS-REx arrived at asteroid Bennu on Dec. 3, 2018. It collected a sample of rocks and dust from Bennu surface on Oct. 20, 2020.

Bennu is likely to be a well-preserved, 4.5 billion-year-old remanent of the early solar system, so the samples should provide insight into the role that similar asteroids played in the formation of planets and the delivery of organic material and water to Earth that may have ultimately led to life, said NASA.

Data collected from the OSIRIS-REx mission will also help scientists better understand asteroids that could impact Earth and inform future asteroid deflection efforts, according to NASA.

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