NASA will reveal to the world today (October 10) the fruits of its first asteroid sample return mission.
The agency will host a webcast today at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) to reveal the asteroid’s dirt and gravel that the OSIRIS-REx mission delivered to Earth last month.
You can watch the event live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA, OR Directly through the agency.
Related: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx rover lands samples from asteroid Bennu on Earth after a historic 4-billion-mile journey.
The $1.2 billion OSIRIS-REx mission was launched in September 2016 toward the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, a carbon-rich space rock about 1,650 feet (500 meters) across.
The probe reached its goal in December 2018, setting a record for the smallest cosmic body ever orbited by a spacecraft. In October 2020, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft swooped in and sampled Bennu, plunging surprisingly deep into the asteroid’s surface in the process.
The following May, OSIRIS-REx began its long journey back to Earth. This journey culminated in the landing of the probe’s parachute-assisted return capsule in the northern Utah desert on September 24.
The precious cargo carried home by that capsule now resides at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. JSC employees process, format and store Bennu’s material, which will be studied by researchers around the world for years to come, searching for clues about the early days of the solar system and how life began on Earth. (Some scientists believe that Bennu-like asteroids seeded our planet with organic molecules — the carbon-containing building blocks of life — via collisions long ago.)
Members of the mission team have already begun analyzing some of the asteroid’s materials. NASA officials said they will reveal some of their early results during a webcast today.
We’ll also take a closer look at the sample and, most likely, find out how much of it is present. The OSIRIS-REx rover picked up about 8.8 ounces (250 grams) of Bennu grains during its sampling dive, but that was just a preliminary estimate of the landing, the mission team said. (OSIRIS-REx was supposed to return at least 2.1 ounces, or 60 grams, of material, a goal it almost certainly achieved.)
Only the OSIRIS-REx return capsule touched down in Utah last month. The larger spacecraft flew by Earth, on its way to another asteroid – the infamous Apophis. The probe is scheduled to arrive at Apophis in 2029 and study it in depth, in an extended mission called OSIRIS-APEX.
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