Ancient Asteroid Bennu Contains Ingredients for Life

Date: 2021-07-02 14:55:14

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NASA’s first mission to return a sample from an ancient asteroid arrived at its target, the asteroid Bennu, on Dec. 3, 2018. This mission, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, is a seven-year long voyage set to conclude upon the delivery to Earth of at least 2.1 ounces (60 grams) and possibly up to almost four and a half pounds (two kilograms) of sample. It promises to be the largest amount of extraterrestrial material brought back from space since the Apollo era. The 20-year anniversary of the asteroid’s discovery was in September 2019 — and scientists have been collecting data ever since. Here’s what we already know (and some of what we hope to find out) about this pristine remnant from the early days of our solar system.

OSIRIS-REx has imaged Bennu in higher resolution than we have Earth and our own Moon. Since its arrival at the asteroid on Dec. 3, 2018, the spacecraft has discovered boulders the size of buildings, and imaged the surface down to 5 centimeter-per-pixel resolution. Its cameras captured stunning footage of the sample collection event on Oct. 20, 2020. OSIRIS-REx imaged Bennu for the last time on April 7, 2021, and will return to Earth in 2023 with samples it collected from the asteroid’s surface.

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Music: “Greatest Divide” from Andrew Leslie Spiller, Daniel Burrows, Daniel William David Mallender, and Thomas Richard Hill, via Universal Production Music.

Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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