GENERICO.ruScienceNASA acquired pieces of a 4.6 billion-year-old asteroid: “Scientific treasure”

NASA acquired pieces of a 4.6 billion-year-old asteroid: “Scientific treasure”

Scientists: there is still a lot of “unprecedented” research ahead

The American space agency NASA demonstrated the first samples of asteroids delivered by spacecraft. Ancient black dust and debris were collected three years ago from the asteroid Bennu, located nearly 60 million miles from our planet.

Scientists: there is still a lot of “unprecedented” research ahead Sample of material from the asteroid Bennu of the OSIRIS-REX collector

Pieces of a 4.6-billion-year-old asteroid that landed on Earth last month show evidence of high carbon and water content, NASA said Wednesday as the space agency released preliminary results from its pioneering Osiris-Rex mission.

According to The Guardian, scientists have been analyzing samples from the asteroid Bennu since they were dropped to Earth by a spacecraft flying over the Utah desert on September 24. Principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona in Tucson tells reporters at Houston's Johnson Space Center (JSC) that the samples recovered from space are a “scientific treasure.”

The carbon-rich fragments of the asteroid, the largest such object ever discovered, will “help scientists explore the origins of life on our own planet for future generations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

Researchers also announced that the mission , which brought samples back to Earth after a three-year, nearly 60 million-mile journey, was even more successful than originally thought.

The mission's original goal was to collect just over 2 ounces (60 g) of asteroid material, which would be examined by storage experts in JSC's new sterile facilities built specifically for the mission.

But when the lid of the container was first opened, scientists discovered “additional asteroid material” covering the outer surface of the collector head, container lid and base. According to NASA,  There was so much additional material that it delayed the detailed process of collecting and storing the primary sample.

“It happened slowly and carefully,” noted Dante Loretta, who told a news conference that black dust and particles were scattered around the outer edge of the chamber. – This is already a scientific treasure.”

So far, only a “cursory” test has been conducted. analysis including scanning electron microscope imaging, infrared measurements, X-ray diffraction and elemental analysis.

X-ray computed tomography was also used to create a 3D computer model of one of the particles, highlighting its varied appearance, according to NASA. It was this early analysis that showed the presence of large amounts of carbon and water in the sample.

Bill Nelson stressed that the research conducted to date is only a preliminary assessment and that the real work is about to begin.

“Almost everything we do at NASA is aimed at answering questions about who we are and where we come from. Missions like Osiris-Rex will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth and give us insight into what lies beyond – he said. – The sample has arrived on Earth, but there is still so much scientific research ahead… like we have never seen before.

According to a NASA press release accompanying the discovery, rocks and dust from the asteroid will be studied “for decades.” The statement said they “will provide insight into how our solar system formed, how precursor materials to life may have been seeded on Earth, and what precautions must be taken to avoid asteroid impacts with our home planet.”

“Abundance of carbon-rich material and abundant presence of aquiferous clay minerals – this is just the tip of the cosmic iceberg, – says Dante Loretta. – These discoveries, made possible through years of dedicated collaboration and cutting-edge scientific advances, advance our understanding not only of our celestial environment, but also of the potential for life to emerge. With each Bennu revelation, we move closer to unraveling the mysteries of our cosmic heritage.

Over the next two years, scientists will continue to “characterize” samples. At least 70% of them will remain at JSC for further study by experts from the United States and around the world. Additional samples will be made available to the Smithsonian Institution, Space Center Houston and the University of Arizona for public display.

Meanwhile, the Osiris-Rex mission, managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, continues. After dropping the Bennu samples, the spacecraft resumed its race to collide with the asteroid Apophis in 2029, when it will approach Earth at its closest.

Apophis was thought to pose a threat to Earth in 2068, but two years ago, the asteroid was removed from the “risk list” European Space Agency.

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