NASA’s OSIRIS-REx has delivered a sample of an asteroid to Earth. what next? , explainer news


Scientists will analyze asteroid samples to investigate the origin of life on Earth.

A NASA space capsule carrying the largest sample ever collected from an asteroid landed on a test and training range in Utah on Sunday.

The capsule was released from the robotic spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, which was launched into space seven years ago and collected the sample in October 2020.

Scientists say that this sample will help them know more about the origin of the solar system.

Now that the space capsule has returned to Earth, what happens next:

What happens to OSIRIS-REx?

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft did not return to Earth’s surface.

Instead, it separated from the gumdrop-shaped sample return capsule and released into Earth’s atmosphere.

About 20 minutes after release, the spacecraft passed Earth for its next mission, a visit to another near-Earth asteroid called Apophis.

OSIRIS-REx, now named OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer), will study Apophis as the asteroid approaches Earth in 2029.

The spacecraft plans to take close-up pictures of the asteroid. It will also use its gas thrusters to attempt to dislodge and study dust and rocks on and around the asteroid’s surface.

What happens to the asteroid sample?

The sample was collected from the capsule’s landing site in Utah and taken to a temporary clean room, where it was cleaned and separated.

NASA said the sample components were packaged and measures were taken to protect the sample from contamination.

The components, packed with a sealed sample canister, will be delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Monday. Some of the finer grained material at the top of the canister will be quickly analyzed.

Preliminary analysis of this sample will be broadcast from the space center on October 11.

Pierre Hennecour, an affiliate of the University of Arizona and a member of the OSIRIS-REx team that studies organics and pre-solar material, told Al Jazeera that the sample will provide “unchanged, ancient insights into the building blocks of the solar system.” ,

For the next two years, scientists will study and catalog the samples in a dedicated clean room at the Johnson Space Center.

To ensure that the sample remained intact, the capsule was placed in a glovebox with continuous nitrogen flow by technicians in protective gear [NASA via AP]

In about six months, the sample catalog will be released and the sample will be available for scientists to study.

Soon after this the sample will be distributed for testing and research. About a quarter of the sample will be distributed among the OSIRIS-REx team, which consists of 233 scientists representing 38 institutions globally.

Parts of the sample will also be distributed to partner space agencies in Canada and Japan.

The remainder, about 70 percent of the asteroid material, will be stored at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and a backup facility in White Sands, New Mexico.


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