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OSIRIS-REx delivered Bennu asteroid material

250 grams of dust and rocks is a triumph of a journey

25.Sep.23 5:49 AM
By Abigail Richards
Photo NASA


OSIRIS-REx delivered Bennu asteroid material
After a journey of 2.3 billion kilometers, an American capsule landed back on Earth on Sunday. This capsule is part of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which NASA used to collect material from the asteroid Bennu.

It marks an exciting conclusion to a mission that has lasted for seven years. Around 4:55 PM CET, the container with valuable asteroid debris is supposed to land on Earth. The intention is for the space package to gently descend into the desert of the U.S. state of Utah.

The sender of this package is OSIRIS-REx. This spacecraft will remain in space on Sunday and release the container of debris at a distance of approximately 100,000 kilometers from Earth. If everything goes according to plan, the container will re-enter the atmosphere at nearly 45,000 kilometers per hour four hours later.

According to researchers, the contents of the package are of immense value. It consists of 250 grams of pebbles and dust from the asteroid Bennu. The OSIRIS-REx successfully landed on the asteroid in 2020 and collected the debris.

Researchers are eagerly anticipating the study of the asteroid debris. "This material existed before our planet, possibly even grains that predate our solar system," says the mission's chief researcher to the BBC. This suggests that the debris is more than 4.5 billion years old.

According to Professor Dante Lauretta, the material should help answer questions about our existence. "How did Earth come into being, and why is it a habitable world?" Lauretta lists. But the most crucial question is, "What is the source of the organic molecules that make up all life on Earth?"

NASA is keeping a close eye on Bennu for another reason. Among all the asteroids in space, this potato-shaped space rock has the highest probability of ever colliding with our Earth, although that chance is very small. If it does happen, the expected timeframe for a possible collision is the end of the next century.

For OSIRIS-REx, the work is not done after seven years. Following the sending of the package of asteroid debris, the spacecraft will set course for Apophis, another asteroid. Apophis is set to come close to Earth in April 2029. There, the spacecraft will also dig into the surface and reveal its composition.

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