NASA’s first asteroid samples are flying toward Earth after being released from a spacecraft

Flying past the earth, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft The capsule was released from a distance of 63,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). The capsule was scheduled to parachute down to the military’s Utah Test and Training Range four hours later.

Scientists expected to get at least one cup of rubble from the carbon-rich asteroid Bennu. About a teaspoon was returned by Japan, the only other country to bring back asteroid samples.

The flawless samples They are thought to be the remaining building blocks of our solar system’s beginnings and will help scientists better understand how Earth and life came to be.

Osiris-Rex took off in 2016 on a $1 billion mission. Two years later, it reached Bennu and, in 2020, used a long stick vacuum to suck up dust and pebbles from the small, rounded space rock. When it returned on Sunday, the spacecraft had traveled 4 billion miles (6.2 billion kilometers).

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Osiris-Rex is now free of the sample capsule and is already setting its sights on another asteroid. This encounter will not take place until 2029.

NASA’s recovery efforts in Utah include helicopters and the creation of a temporary clean room at the firing range. The samples will be flown to a new laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday.

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