“He will rewrite history.”
NASA detects water and carbon in asteroid sample
October 12, 2023, 2:37 am
Listen to the material
This audio version was created artificially. More information | Send your opinion
NASA has made a groundbreaking discovery: water and carbon were found in a sample brought to Earth by the asteroid Bennu. Additional research should help understand the origins of life on our planet.
According to the US space agency NASA, a sample of the rubble of the asteroid Bennu, which fell to Earth about three weeks ago, contains traces of water and carbon. This was demonstrated by preliminary examinations of the sample, which still needs to be deepened through several additional analyses, NASA announced at a press conference, in which photos and videos of the sample were shown for the first time. It is the first asteroid sample successfully brought to Earth in NASA’s history – and the largest sample ever taken.
Bill Nelson, head of NASA, spoke of a “picture book mission.” The sample will help scientists around the world investigate the origins of life and our planet. “There’s going to be a lot of research on this, research that we’ve never seen before,” Nelson said. “In the next few months and years, we will definitely rewrite history a little bit,” NASA Administrator Mackenzie Listrup promised.
The sample was dropped into a capsule last September by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe from an altitude of about 102,000 kilometers – and then landed in the desert of the US state of Utah, protected by a heat shield and slowed down by parachutes. From there, it was then transferred to NASA laboratories in Texas, where about 200 scientists are now working on the material using 60 different examination methods. The materials will now be cataloged and then made available to researchers and museums around the world.
About three years ago, Osiris Rex collected the sample from the celestial body using a complex maneuver. NASA said the sample consists of dust and pieces of rubble of different sizes and weighs about 250 grams, roughly equivalent to the weight of a can of butter. NASA had hoped to obtain at least 60 grams in advance, and contrary to expectations, NASA scientists also found additional material from the asteroid Bennu inside and on board the capsule, which is why the investigation initially took longer than planned.
Osiris-Rex was launched from Cape Canaveral Spaceport in September 2016 and arrived on Bennu about two years later. The deep black asteroid, named after an ancient Egyptian god, is about 550 meters in diameter and could make its closest approach to Earth in 150 years. Even if the risk of collision is very low, NASA considers Bennu one of the most dangerous asteroids currently known – and therefore wants to research it in detail. Scientists also hope that the “Osiris Rex” mission, which costs about one billion dollars, will provide insight into the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago, because such asteroids are remnants of it.
In 2005, the Japanese space probe Hayabusa landed on an asteroid. In 2010, the first soil samples collected from this celestial body were brought to Earth. There have been other flights to asteroids, but before Osiris-Rex no other probe had been able to return material to Earth.
Meanwhile, NASA continues to focus heavily on asteroids: the “Osiris-Rex” probe, which is approximately six meters long and weighs 2,100 kilograms, launched towards the next asteroid Apophis immediately after it was shot down. According to calculations, the asteroid with a diameter of about 370 meters will pass near Earth at a distance of about 32 thousand kilometers in 2029, and thus it can be studied closely for the first time. NASA’s Psyche mission is also scheduled to launch to the asteroid of the same name this week.
Lifelong foodaholic. Professional twitter expert. Organizer. Award-winning internet geek. Coffee advocate.