NASA’s First Asteroid Sample Has Finally Landed on Earth

NASA's Asteroid Sample Lands on Earth

The sample return capsule from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is seen shortly after touching down in the desert, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range. The sample was collected from the asteroid Bennu in October 2020 by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. (Photo: NASA/Keegan Barber)

Three years ago, NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid. Since then, the Osiris-REx has been on a long journey home to share the findings with the team. On September 24, 2023, the capsule containing rocks and dust from Bennu successfully landed on Earth, in an area inside the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City.

Since the spacecraft's launch in 2016, the NASA team has loyally followed its journey through space and toward the asteroid. The findings from this mission will hopefully provide insight into “the origin of organics and water that led to life on Earth,” as well as other vital information about asteroids that could potentially threaten our planet. The 8.8-ounce sample was relocated to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where scientists dismantled the canister and began cataloging the contents. Pieces of Bennu will be shared with researchers around the world so they can learn about the asteroid.

“Congratulations to the OSIRIS-REx team on a picture-perfect mission—the first American asteroid sample return in history—which will deepen our understanding of the origin of our solar system and its formation. Not to mention, Bennu is a potentially hazardous asteroid, and what we learn from the sample will help us better understand the types of asteroids that could come our way,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “With OSIRIS-REx, Psyche launch in a couple of weeks, DART’s one-year anniversary, and Lucy’s first asteroid approach in November, Asteroid Autumn is in full swing. These missions prove once again that NASA does big things. Things that inspire us and unite us. Things that show nothing is beyond our reach when we work together.”

NASA shared a photo of the deconstructed capsule on X (Twitter). The large object was opened up as a group of scientists clad in white protective clothing analyzed the materials inside. “Today marks an extraordinary milestone not just for the OSIRIS-REx team but for science as a whole,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “Successfully delivering samples from Bennu to Earth is a triumph of collaborative ingenuity and a testament to what we can accomplish when we unite with a common purpose. But let’s not forget—while this may feel like the end of an incredible chapter, it’s truly just the beginning of another. We now have the unprecedented opportunity to analyze these samples and delve deeper into the secrets of our solar system.”

NASA's OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) mission successfully returned samples from the Bennu asteroid to Earth. The capsule landed in Utah on September 24, 2023.

You can watch the livestream of the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return in this video:

NASA: Website | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube
h/t: [NASA]

All images via NASA.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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