NASA’s OSIRIS-REx historic mission captures rocks from an asteroid. US and Canada

A NASA spacecraft touched down the bumpy surface of the Benue asteroid on Tuesday, holding a sample of rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system to bring home.

It was a first for the United States – only Japan has already received asteroid samples.

The so-called “touch-and-go” maneuver was managed by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, where on Tuesday at 6.12pm (22:12 GMT) an announcer said: “Touchdown declared. Sampling in progress,” and scientists Erupted in celebration

Seconds later, Lockheed mission operator Estelle Church confirmed that the spacecraft had eased away from the space reef after making contact, announcing: “Sample collection is complete and the back-burn barn has been executed.”

The historic mission took 12 years to make and was rested over a 16-second critical period, where the minivan-shaped OSIRIS-REx spacecraft carried its 11-foot (3.35-m) robotic arm near the north pole of Genu. Raised towards a flat patch of gravel and sampled the rocks – NASA’s first ancient asteroid rocks.

The investigation will send back images of the sample collection on Wednesday and throughout the week so that scientists can check how much of the material was recovered and determine that the investigation will need to make another collection effort.

This mosaic image of the asteroid Benue was composed of 12 Polycam images collected by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft over a range of 15 mi (24 km) on December 2, 2018. [NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters]

Scientists want at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and, ideally, close to 4 pounds (2 kg) of the black, crumbly, carbon-rich material of bean – thought to contain the building blocks of the solar system . The asteroid is located more than 200 million miles (321.9 million kilometers) from Earth.

Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission, compared Bennettu to Rosetta Stone: “something that tells our entire Earth’s history of the solar system during the last billion years.”


If a successful collection is confirmed, the spacecraft will begin its journey towards Earth, arriving in 2023.

“Everything went absolutely right,” said Denta Lauretta, OSIRIS-REX head investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson, on a NASA live feed from Lockheed’s mission support building. “We have overcome the amazing challenges that this asteroid has thrown at us, and the spacecraft operates flawlessly.”

The robotic arm’s collection device, which is the size of a large shower head, is designed to release pressurized gas to kill debris.

The spacecraft was launched in 2016 from Kennedy Space Center to travel to Benue. It has been preparing for touch and go maneuvers in the asteroid’s orbit for nearly two years.

Benue, which is more than 4.5 billion years old, was chosen as a target because scientists believe it to be a small fragment of what was once a very large space rock that formed two asteroids in the history of solar The system was broken during a collision between.

NASA’s Director of Planetary Science Lori Glaze said that asteroids are like floating time capsules in space that can provide a fossil record of the birth of our solar system. “They can provide valuable information about how planets like us came to be.”

Thanks to data collected from orbit, the NASA team has determined two major discoveries: first, that water is between 5 and 10 percent of the mass of bean, and that its surface is lined with carbon-rich molecules Is lying Atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu can help scientists better understand what role asteroids play in bringing water to Earth and is seeded with prebiotic material that provides the building blocks for life Does.

Studying that material can also help scientists discover whether life exists elsewhere in the solar system.

OSIRIS-Rex chief investigator Lauretta told Al Jazeera in Tuesday’s success, “If this kind of chemistry is beginning in the early solar system, it probably has happened in other solar systems.” “It helps us assess the probability of the origin of a lifetime that occurs in the galaxy and, ultimately, across the universe.”

Japan expects samples from its second asteroid mission – at most milligrams – to land in the Australian desert in December.

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