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NASA reveals remaining Bennu asteroid sample


The remaining samples from the potentially water-rich Bennu asteroid were finally revealed after months-long efforts.

The astromaterials curation team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has successfully completed the disassembly of the OSIRIS-REx sampler head, revealing the remaining sample collected from the Bennu asteroid mission, the space agency said.

It includes dust and rocks of up to 0.4 inches (1 cm) in size, which will now be removed to sample trays for weighing, packaging, and storing at Johnson, home to the most extensive collection of astromaterials in the world.

NASA’s team had already collected 2.48 ounces (70.3 grams) of asteroid material from the sample hardware before the lid was removed. The agency’s original goal was to retrieve at least 2.12 ounces (60 grams) of asteroid material.

The robotic spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, which collected the sample from the asteroid in 2020, brought it back to Earth in September last year. It dropped the sample successfully in the designated area in Utah.

The first samples contained “abundant” evidence of carbon and water, according to NASA. The OSIRIS-REx mission towards Bennu was launched in 2016 and reached it two years later. It took two more years for the spacecraft to descend toward the asteroid and grab sample materials before returning home.

OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer.

A “potentially hazardous” asteroid, Bennu formed around 4.5 billion years ago and was discovered in 1999. It could provide insights into the origin of the solar system and help humanity better prepare for possible asteroid collisions in the future.

Only two missions before OSIRIS-REx, both carried out by the Japanese space agency JAXA, brought asteroid samples back to Earth.

The Hayabusa mission returned samples collected from the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa in 2010, and Hayabusa 2 brought dirt and dust fetched from another potentially hazardous asteroid, Ryugu, in 2020.


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