Asteroid sample on way to Earth: What you should know?

Sample from Bennu asteroid will be landing on desert through capsule released by OSIRIS-Rex in Utah

By Web Desk
September 22, 2023
This illustrative picture released on August 25, 2019, shows an asteroid in space. — Nasa

Experts on the ground will be waiting for an asteroid sample which will be collected by Nasa's space rock probe OSIRIS-Rex and sent back to Earth for a comprehensive analysis on Sunday.

The space rock from the Bennu asteroid will be landing on a desert through a capsule released by OSIRIS-Rex in Utah weighing an estimated 8.8 ounces.

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The event will be live-streamed starting at 10am ET Sunday.

The capsule is likely to enter Earth’s atmosphere at 10:42am ET, with a speed of about 27,650 miles per hour (44,498 kilometres per hour), landing 13 minutes later.

The probe will continue its space journey in the solar system to collect further information about asteroid named Apophis.

The samples from space may assist scientists to gain more insight into the origins and evolution of the solar system as asteroids are the "leftovers" from those early days 4.5 billion years ago.

The analysis will also help gain more insight into Bennu, which is expected to hit Earth in the future.

Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) started its journey in 2016.

After surveying the Bennu — a rubble-pile asteroid shaped like a spinning top, is about one-third of a mile (500 meters) wide and composed of rocks held together by gravity.

During the sample collection, OSIRIS-REx went 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) deep into the surface — loosely packed — of the asteroid.

After saying goodbye to Bennu in May 2021, Nasa's probe has been on its way to Earth, circling the sun twice so it can fly by Earth at the right time to release the sample.

The capsule will land within an area of 36 miles by 8.5 miles on the Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range.

Sandra Freund, OSIRIS-REx program manager at Lockheed Martin Space, said: "Parachutes will deploy to slow the capsule to a gentle touchdown at 11 miles per hour, and recovery teams will be standing by to retrieve the capsule once it is safe to do so."

Details about the sample, after undergoing the necessary process will be revealed through a Nasa broadcast from Johnson on October 11.

According to scientists, carbonaceous asteroids such as Bennu crashed into Earth early during their formation, delivering elements like water.

"We’re looking for clues as to why Earth is a habitable world — this rare jewel in outer space that has oceans and has a protective atmosphere," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"We think all of those materials were brought by these carbon-rich asteroids very early in our planetary system formation."

"We believe that we're bringing back that kind of material, literally maybe representatives of the seeds of life that these asteroids delivered at the beginning of our planet that led to this amazing biosphere, biological evolution and to us being here today,"Lauretta added.

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