Samples from Bennu, the asteroid that could collide with our planet, are already on Earth

By 24/09/2023 Portal

Successful return of samples rescued by NASA's Osiris-Rex mission, the first of the American space agency to collect remains from an asteroid. The maneuvers began as planned: around 1 in the afternoon (Spanish time) the Osirix-Rex ship launched its precious cargo, the samples of the asteroid Bennu, from space, 800 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. An hour later, it turned on its engines to set course for Apophis, another potentially dangerous asteroid due to its path close to our planet and which will star in the extended version of the Osiris-Rex mission (renamed Osiris-Apex) in the coming years. Meanwhile, the capsule was traveling on its way to the Utah desert. Four hours later, 13 minutes before touching down, the probe entered the Earth's atmosphere at the dizzying speed of 12 kilometers per second, having to endure temperatures of 2,800ºC just a couple of minutes after its entry, wrapped in a ball of fire that crossed the skies of the United States. To stop her rapid descent so that she would not end up crushed to the ground, the primary parachutes opened, reducing her speed from hypersonic to subsonic. The main and largest one did so five minutes later, causing a soft landing on the ground at about 16 kilometers per hour. Finally, at 4:55 p.m. Spanish time, the samples touched the surface. After the 'touchdown' of the capsule, it is the turn of the ground teams: it will take about three hours to recover it, prepare it 'in situ' to subsequently rule out contamination with the terrestrial soil, and photograph each inch to reveal information from the second to second of your descent until you get there. Subsequently, it will be taken to a clean room (free of contamination) for its first analyses. At that time, some information will be known, such as the amount of material rescued. The mission aimed to recover at least 60 grams; However, the first analyzes of the ship indicated that around 250 grams could be collected. In the next few hours, the samples will arrive at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, where they will be preserved and stored. JSC staff will oversee the distribution of the material to scientists around the world, who will study it for various purposes, although it is expected that the first analyzes will be reserved for the team, releasing preliminary results, at least in quantity and possible contaminants, in the next few hours. Why Bennu Among the more than a million known asteroids, Bennu is one of the closest and largest known: about 500 meters long (usually compared to the size of the Empire State Building), it is located about 300 million kilometers from us. It is not always that far away: because it has a path around the Sun similar to that of the Earth, periodically - approximately every six years - it approaches us. At the moment he has done it in a harmless way, but there is a chance that he will get closer than necessary in the future. In fact, astronomers have already given a date that could be critical for our planet: September 24, 2182. The chances, although real, are low: one in 2,700, around 0.037%, according to NASA data. A mission like Osiris-Rex could provide data on its composition that would help a possible plan in case the worst plans come true. Apart from technical considerations or catastrophic aspects, Bennu is an important asteroid because it is a 'time capsule' from the beginnings of the Solar System. It is believed to have formed about 4.5 billion years ago and has remained unchanged since then, although it emerged after the impact of two parent objects, one or two billion years ago. That is why, unlike other bodies that fall towards us and are altered by friction with the Earth's atmosphere or by contamination once they are on the ground, it can provide us with first-hand information about the first moments in the formation of the Solar System. Related News Standard Osiris Rex Mission Yes Yasmina Martos, NASA scientist: "The samples from the asteroid Bennu will help us clarify if life came from space" Judith de Jorge The Osiris-Rex spacecraft arrives on Earth on Sunday with a quarter of kilo of material from the space rock, the largest amount obtained from an object beyond the Moon Its composition, very rich in carbon, and the presence of water in its minerals, make it very interesting to study not only the formation of our neighborhood cosmic, but also the appearance of the precursors that originated life. In fact, its analysis will be key to determining if the theory is true that this, or at least its 'basic bricks' arrived aboard some space rock that collided with the Earth at some point at the beginning of time, in our past. . Now, in our future, years of research will reveal the mysteries of Bennu.