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NASA's First Asteroid Sample Lands on the Earth


Image Source: NASA


  • After years of anticipation and hard work by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft team, a sample capsule of rocks and dust collected by the spacecraft has landed on Earth on September 24, 2023.
  • It landed in a targeted area of the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City.
  • The spacecraft had released the sample capsule from 63,000 miles (100,000 km) out.
  • It is believed that the capsule holds a debris from the carbon-rich asteroid known as Bennu.
  • The Bennu sample is estimated to be about 8.8 ounces, or 250 grams of asteroid rocks and soil.
  • The sample will help to understand planet formation and the origins of organics and water that led to life on Earth.
  • The capsule was transported by helicopter to a temporary clean room set up, where it is connected to a continuous flow of nitrogen.
  • Nitrogen is a gas that doesn't interact with most other chemicals, and a continuous flow of it inside the capsule will keep the sample pure, leaving out earthly contaminants, for scientific analysis.
  • The sample will be transferred to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on September 25 for detailed analysis whose report would be revealed to public in October.
  • The sample will also be divided up and sent to laboratories around the globe, including Canadian and Japanese Space Agency.
  • Scientists believe that asteroid Bennu is the representative of the solar system's own oldest materials shaped in supernova explosions.
  • This is the reason why NASA is devoting in these small bodies for the better understanding of solar system.

OSIRIS-REx Mission of NASA:-

  • OSIRIS-REx which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, was rocketed away in 2016.
  • The mission's primary goal was to obtain a sample of at least 60 gm from a carbonaceous near-Earth asteroid, Bennu.
  • The spacecraft began orbiting asteroid Bennu in 2018 and the spacecraft collected the sample in 2020, with setting off its lengthy return trip to Earth in May 2021.
  • The mission travelled 3.86 billion miles total to Bennu and back.
  • Now, after dropping the sample capsule from asteroid Bennu to Earth, it is continuing its tour of solar system and has set off to capture a detailed look at different asteroid named Apophis.
  • The mission has now a new name: OSIRIS-APEX which stands for Origins, Spectral Inetrpretation, Resource Identification, Security-APophis EXplorer.
  • OSIRIS-APEX is expected to reach out the asteroid Apophis by 2029.

Other Missions:-

  • This was NASA's third sample return from a deep space robotic mission.
    • Earlier, the Genesis spacecraft dropped off bits of solar wind in 2004, but the samples were compromised when the parachute failed and the capsule slammed into the ground.
    • The Stardust spacecraft successfully delivered comet dust in 2006.
  • Japan is the only other country to bring back asteroid samples gathered about a teaspoon in a pair of asteroid missions.

Source - The Hindu

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