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NASA's first asteroid samples are on their way back to Earth

Nasa's Osiris-Rex capsule returns with asteroid samples
Nasa's Osiris-Rex capsule returns with asteroid samples

In an incredible feat, Nasa's Osiris-Rex spacecraft successfully returned to Earth carrying samples from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu, marking the end of its seven-year journey. The capsule was released 100,000 kilometers from Earth and landed in the Utah desert four hours later.

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Scientific Expectations

Scientists are excited about the prospect of obtaining at least a cup of rubble from Bennu, which is believed to contain pristine samples that date back to the formation of our solar system. These samples are expected to provide valuable insights into the origins of Earth and life itself. Japan is the only other country to have successfully collected asteroid samples, bringing back about a teaspoon.

Mission Highlights

The Osiris-Rex mission, costing $1 billion, began in 2016 and reached Bennu in 2018. Using a unique long stick vacuum, the spacecraft collected dust and pebbles from the asteroid's surface in 2020. Over the course of its journey, the spacecraft covered a staggering distance of 6.2 billion kilometers.

Continuing the Journey

With the sample capsule now safely returned, Osiris-Rex is already setting its sights on another asteroid. However, this next encounter is not expected until 2029.

Recovery and Analysis

Nasa has organized a comprehensive recovery effort in Utah, involving helicopters and a temporary clean room set up at the Utah Test and Training Range. The precious samples will be transported on Monday to a new laboratory at Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston for in-depth analysis.

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By: Vibha Kapoor