NASA Successfully Returns Dusty Asteroid Samples To Earth

NASA has achieved a significant milestone in space exploration by successfully bringing back dusty samples from asteroid Bennu to Earth. 

The material, collected by the Osiris-Rex spacecraft in 2020, landed in a capsule in the West Desert of Utah state.

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NASA’s mission to asteroid Bennu aims to explore and study this celestial body, which has a remote possibility of impacting Earth within the next 300 years. 

However, the value of these samples extends beyond planetary defence. Scientists said the retrieved materials may provide profound insights into the solar system’s origins.

Tim Priser, the chief engineer at Aerospace, said, “This little capsule understood the assignment; it touched down like a feather.”

Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dante Laurette told BBC: “I cried like a baby in that helicopter when I ears that the parachute had opened and we were coming in for a soft landing,” 

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“It was just an overwhelming moment for me. It’s an astounding accomplishment.”

The capsule’s touchdown was meticulously planned and executed. It re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the western US at speeds exceeding 27,000 mph. 

The capsule carried samples of asteroid material estimated at approximately 250 grams (9 ounces). 

Eileen Stansbery, the chief scientist at Nasa’s Johnson Space Flight Centre in Texas, said researchers can analyse these samples at high resolutions, examining even the tiniest particles.

“We know how to slice and dice a 10-micron-sized particle into a dozen slices and then map grain at nanoscales. So, 250 grams is huge.”

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