NASA’s asteroid sample safe, will be delivered to Texas on Monday

Washington, September 25 (IANS). Following the successful retrieval of samples from asteroid Bennu, NASA now aims to transport 250 grams of ancient rock and dust to its facility in Texas, from where it will be distributed to global scientists on Monday.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explorer) on Sunday delivered to Earth a capsule of rocks and dust collected from asteroid Bennu in 2020.

It landed at a target area at the Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range near Salt Lake City at 10:55 am EDT (8.25 pm IST) on Sunday.

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“Congratulations to the OSIRIS-REx team on a picture-perfect mission – the first US asteroid sample return in history – that will deepen our understanding of the origins of our Solar System and its formation. Needless to mention, Bennu is a potentially hazardous asteroid, and what we learn from the sample will help us better understand the types of asteroids that may come our way,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. Said in the statement.

Now the OSIRIS-REx team will fly the Bennu sample in a sealed canister to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on Monday.

NASA said curation scientists there will take apart the canister, extract and weigh the sample, take an inventory of the rocks and dust and, over time, distribute pieces of Bennu to scientists around the world.

After traveling billions of miles to Bennu and back, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft released its sample capsule toward Earth’s atmosphere at 6:42 a.m. EDT (4:42 a.m. MDT). The spacecraft was 102,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface at the time – about one-third the distance from Earth to the Moon.

Traveling at 44,500 kilometers per hour, the capsule crossed the atmosphere off the coast of California at 10:42 a.m. EDT (8:42 a.m. MDT) at an altitude of about 133 kilometers.

Within 10 minutes it landed on the military range. En route, two parachutes successfully deployed to stabilize and slow the capsule to 11 mph (18 kph) upon touchdown.

Within an hour and a half of touchdown, the capsule was transported by helicopter to a temporary clean room installed in a hangar on the training range, where it is now connected to a constant flow of nitrogen – one of the OSIRIS-REx team’s most important tasks.

Nitrogen is a gas that does not interact with most other chemicals, and its constant flow into the sample container inside the capsule will keep out earthly contaminants, leaving the sample pure for scientific analysis.

Returned samples collected from Bennu will help scientists around the world make discoveries to better understand planet formation and the origins of the organic matter and water that led to life on Earth, as well as learn more about potentially hazardous asteroids. The entire humanity will benefit by knowing.

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