A capsule containing a sample of the asteroid "Bennu" landed yesterday, Sunday, September 24, 2023, in the desert of the US state of Utah after a very rapid final landing across the Earth's atmosphere, 7 years after the takeoff of the "Osiris-REX" spacecraft.
About 250 grams of rock and dust, collected 3 years ago from the distant asteroid Bennu, have successfully reached Earth, while the US space agency says it will "open a time capsule for the beginnings of our solar system."
To the sound of applause from the space agency's team of scientists, vivid images showed the capsule parachuting and concluding a 6 billion kilometer journey to get a sample of an asteroid back to Earth.
After landing, the capsule was wrapped up and placed in a window lifted by a helicopter to be transferred to a temporary "clean room", where the capsule should be exposed to the sand of the American desert for the shortest possible time, to avoid any contamination of the sample that could distort subsequent analyses.
The capsule contains about 250 grams of rock and dust collected 3 years ago from the distant asteroid "Bennu" (French)
About 4 hours before landing, the Osiris-REX probe launched the capsule containing the sample from more than 100,<> kilometers from Earth (about a third of the distance between the moon and Earth).
During the last 13 minutes, the capsule crossed the atmosphere, entering it at speeds of more than 44,2700 kilometers per hour, with temperatures of up to <>,<> degrees Celsius. The probe set off on a journey to the asteroid Apophis.
"The impossible is possible"
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said "the impossible is possible," congratulating collaborators for bringing the largest sample of asteroids ever to Earth.
"This will help scientists investigate planet formation, improve our understanding of asteroids that could affect Earth and deepen our understanding of the origin and composition of our solar system."
The sample was taken to NASA laboratories in Texas for testing. Using 60 different scientific approaches, a team of about 200 scientists hopes to analyze rocks and dust from the asteroid to get clues about how life began on Earth.
The samples are expected to help scientists study asteroids affecting Earth and deepen their understanding of the origin and composition of the solar system (French)
NASA scientists waited a long time for the return of the probe, which was launched from NASA's Cape Canaveral space port in September 2016 and arrived at the asteroid Bennu about two years later.
Japan's Hayabusa space probe landed on an asteroid in 2005.
In 2010, he returned to Earth the first-ever soil samples collected from such an asteroid. Although there are other probes that have reached the asteroids, Hayabusa is the only probe that has been able to return samples to Earth so far.
Benno could hit the ground
It is worth noting that the diameter of the asteroid "Bennu", which is rich in black carbon compounds, is about 550 meters. The asteroid, named after an ancient Egyptian "god", is expected to pass close to Earth in about 150 years.
NASA scientists were able to deflect an asteroid from its course by colliding with a vehicle in 2022 (French)
There is little chance (1 in 2700) that the small asteroid, discovered in 1999, will collide with Earth in 2182, potentially having a catastrophic impact. More data on its composition would be useful.
NASA was able to deflect an asteroid off course by colliding with a vehicle last year.