NASA shows what is inside the Bennu asteroid sample container for the first time. Photos
The American space agency NASA has finally gained access to the priceless samples from the asteroid Bennu, which were delivered to Earth in October as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission. The researchers also showed photos of what was inside.
The report was published on the agency's website. As you know, for several months, NASA engineers have been trying to solve the problem of the inability to open 2 of the 35 container fasteners.
The published photos show that they managed to collect both small samples of soil from a distant asteroid and quite large fragments. All of them have a dark color with a characteristic glint.
It's worth noting that even the smallest pieces of this soil, which look like ordinary dirt, are actually primordial asteroid material that is billions of years old. In fact, it is a natural treasure trove that can reveal many secrets of the early solar system to scientists.
These samples are now in the hands of the Johnson Space Center's astromaterials curation team, which finally opened the container on January 10, thanks to new tools developed by NASA engineers on short notice.
Subsequently, all these samples will be packaged in special trays. All of them will be photographed, weighed, packaged and stored.
The final mass of all samples will be announced later. At present, only 70.3 grams of samples are known to have been collected, which were directly on the sampling equipment but outside the container. Their study has already allowed scientists to announce a sensation.
In general, the mission's goal was to collect at least 60 grams of material, so OSIRIS-REx has at least exceeded its goal.
The curatorial team will also catalog all the samples during this year, after which scientists from around the world will be able to request access to them.
Interestingly, 75% of all the material collected will be preserved for future generations of researchers, who hopefully will have even better technology to study these samples.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delivered a priceless cargo to Earth on September 24, 2023. In October, NASA admitted that they could not open the lid of the container containing the main samples from Bennu as two of the 35 fasteners could not be opened. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the container was in a special protective box for which no tools could be used, so engineers had to develop completely new ones.
Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid about 4.5 billion years old. It offers scientists a window into the distant past of the Solar System when rocky planets were forming. Scientists also suspect that Bennu may be even older than our solar system. In this case, they will be able to look back to the times when there was only a solar nebula and a protosun. This will provide information on how everything, including the Sun, was formed.