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Getting An Asteroid Sample

Next Week NASA Will Snag A Sample From An Ancient Relic Of Our Solar System

NASA’s first-ever sample return mission to an asteroid is about to make history. Next week, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will attempt to retrieve a sample from an asteroid named Bennu. Asteroids are remnants of the building blocks that formed the planets in our solar system and perhaps enabled life on Earth. They contain natural resources such as water, organics, and metals. Could carbon-rich asteroids have seeded our early Earth with the organic chemistry needed for life to develop? And they can be dangerous. Bennu has a 1:2700 chance of impacting Earth in the late 2100s, and this mission will also help us learn more about protecting ourselves if necessary.

NASA experts are available virtually for live or taped interviews on October 20 from 5:00 am to 12:00 pm CST – the morning of this historic maneuver – to tell your listeners how they can watch the event unfold and what scientists hope to learn from this out-of-this-world sample from a nearby asteroid. 

In 2016, NASA launched OSIRIS-REx on an epic mission to capture an asteroid sample and bring it back to Earth. On the evening of October 20, the spacecraft will descend to the boulder-strewn surface of Bennu to a site called Nightingale, where the spacecraft’s robotic sampling arm will attempt to snag a sample. 

More than a million known asteroids in our solar system, but Bennu is an ideal candidate for closer study because of its size, composition, and proximity to Earth. Bennu is an artifact of the ancient solar system, a silent witness to the titanic events in our solar system’s 4.6 billion-year history.

The spacecraft departs Bennu in 2021, and it will deliver the collected sample to Earth on September 24, 2023.