The sample return capsule from NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission is seen shortly after touching down in the desert at the Department of Defense's Utah Test and Training Range. Keegan Barber/NASA
Topics: Asteroids, Astrobiology, Astrophysics, NASA, Space Exploration
Scientists are exulting over the safe arrival of a canister containing about a cup's worth of asteroid rocks, collected 200 million miles away, that landed in a Utah desert after a 7-year NASA mission sent to retrieve them.
The black pebbles and dirt are older than Earth and are undisturbed remnants of the solar system's early days of planet formation. As part of an asteroid named Bennu, these rocks traveled unsullied through space for eons.
While bits of asteroids regularly fall to our planet as meteorites, scientists want to study pristine asteroid material, stuff that's uncontaminated by our planet, to understand the early chemistry that might have contributed to the emergence of life.
NASA asteroid sample lands safely in Utah before being whisked away by helicopter, Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR