NASA spacecraft collected a 250 gram sample from asteroid Bennu

A NASA spacecraft that traveled to asteroid Bennu collected a sample of about 250 grams for delivery to Earth next year, well beyond its minimum target of 60 grams, according to a published study Thursday by the American magazine Science.

The surface of asteroid Bennu from a distance of about 40 meters in a photograph taken by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, with an arm for collecting rock samples seen extending downward from the center. (Photo courtesy of NASA) (Kyodo)

NASA plans to hand over part of the sample collected by its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to the Japanese space agency, which previously shared with the US agency some of the material recovered from the asteroid Ryugu by its explorer Hayabusa2 who is returned to Earth in December 2020.

Asteroids are thought to be remnants of the early formation of the solar system around 4.6 billion years ago. Their study should provide new information about the formation of the solar system and the origins of life.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft led the first US mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and return it to Earth. It arrived above Bennu in December 2018 and conducted soundings before touching down on the asteroid’s surface to collect rock samples in October 2020.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration intended to obtain a sample of at least 60 grams, with the collected material expected to be delivered to Earth in September next year.

Hayabusa2, which is smaller than the OSIRIS-REx craft, brought back about 5.4 grams of material from Ryugu.

The sample collected by Hayabusa2 contained more than 20 types of amino acids, which are essential for the manufacture of proteins by all living things. The discovery supported the idea that the origins of life on Earth came from outer space.

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