NASA Confirms Water and Carbon in Asteroid Samples

NASA has declared that the asteroid samples collected by its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from asteroid Bennu are teeming with water and carbon, often called the building blocks of life on Earth.

This discovery underscores the potential role of space rocks like Bennu in shaping the development of life on our planet over the millennia.

The newly released image of the spacecraft’s sample collector reveals the presence of carbon-rich, hydrated clay minerals within the asteroid samples. 

Notably, carbon constitutes approximately five percent of the sample’s total weight, making it one of the most substantial carbon-rich asteroid samples ever delivered to Earth.

In a triumphant statement, NASA administrator Bill Nelson highlighted the significance of this milestone. 

He stated, “The OSIRIS-REx sample is the biggest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth and will help scientists investigate the origins of life on our planet for generations to come.”

The OSIRIS-REx mission, which embarked on its journey in 2016, reached its destination—a 1,650-feet-across asteroid named Bennu—after a two-year voyage through the solar system. 

In 2020, the spacecraft’s collection system, known as the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), skillfully probed the asteroid’s surface, gathering an estimated 8.8 ounces of material.

Last month, the spacecraft safely delivered its precious cargo to the Utah desert. Since then, scientists have meticulously studied the samples in a carefully controlled laboratory environment. 

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NASA OSIRIS-REx Prepares for Next Mission with Unanalyzed Discoveries

Simultaneously, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is gearing up for a new mission to explore a different asteroid named Apophis.

Today’s announcement marks a thrilling development in the OSIRIS-REx mission’s progress. However, it is essential to note that scientists have yet to open the TAGSAM container due to the abundance of samples inside, slowing down the ongoing analysis.

Eileen Stansbery, chief scientist at the Johnson Space Center, emphasized that the mission’s early findings, combined with the samples yet to be explored, represent just the tip of the iceberg regarding the wealth of knowledge that the OSIRIS-REx mission promises to bring to the scientific community.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission has delivered an exciting early result, indicating that asteroid Bennu contains valuable reservoirs of water and carbon—the fundamental components necessary for life on Earth. 

This discovery provides valuable insights into the role of space rocks in shaping our planet’s history and opens the door to further research on the origins of life. 

As scientists continue to investigate the collected samples, the OSIRIS-REx mission is poised to significantly contribute to our understanding of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth.

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Source: The Byte

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