One from the NASA probe Osiris Rex A sample of debris collected from the asteroid Bennu has landed in the US state of Utah. The capsule was dropped above the earth and – slowed by parachutes – touched down in the desert, as live images from the US space agency Nasa showed. According to NASA estimates, it contains around 250 grams of rubble that was collected from the celestial body around three years ago. After landing, it will be taken to NASA laboratories in the US state of Texas for examinations – where around 200 scientists will then work on it using 60 different examination methods.
Osiris Rex (the abbreviation stands for: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) was launched from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in September 2016 and arrived at Bennu about two years later. In October 2020, the probe took a sample from the asteroid in a complicated maneuver lasting several hours – the first US missile in space history. After dropping the sample, the probe immediately set off for the next asteroid – Apophis. The mission had already been extended for at least nine years.
If everything actually worked, then this will be the first sample of an asteroid successfully brought to Earth in the history of NASA – and probably the largest such sample ever taken. In 2005, the Japanese space probe “Hayabusa” landed on an asteroid. In 2010, it brought the first soil samples ever collected from such a celestial body to Earth. There have been other flights to asteroids, but no other probe has yet brought material back to Earth.
The deep black Bennu, named after an ancient Egyptian deity, has a diameter of around 550 meters and could come quite close to Earth in a good 150 years. Even if the risk of impact is very low, NASA counts Bennu as one of the most dangerous asteroids currently known – and therefore wants to research it in detail. The scientists also hope that it will cost around a billion dollars Osiris Rex-Mission findings about the formation of the solar system, because asteroids are remnants of it.