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NASA Successfully Opens Asteroid Capsule in Milestone Mission

NASA Successfully Opens Asteroid Capsule in Milestone Mission

NASA Successfully Opens Asteroid Capsule in Milestone Mission

NASA Successfully Opens Asteroid Capsule in Milestone Mission

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  • NASA opens OSIRIS-REx capsule, overcoming delays.
  • Inside: pristine rocks from asteroid Bennu.
  • Samples may reveal solar system’s origins, Earth’s early conditions.
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Months after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft triumphantly returned to Earth carrying a capsule brimming with grit and dust from the asteroid Bennu, scientists have overcome challenges to open the capsule’s lid, revealing a treasure trove of pristine rocks and minerals.

The delayed extraction was attributed to two jammed fasteners, but as of January 10, NASA engineers have successfully accessed the precious cargo, potentially holding clues to the mysteries of our solar system.

The newly released photo of the capsule’s interior showcases the result of months of dedicated work by NASA’s team. Eileen Stansbery, division chief for ARES (Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, expressed her admiration for the team’s innovation and dedication. Stansbery stated, “Our engineers and scientists have worked tirelessly behind the scenes for months to not only process the more than 70 grams of material we were able to access previously, but also design, develop, and test new tools that allowed us to move past this hurdle.”

Dante Lauretta, leading scientist on the OSIRIS-REx mission and professor at Arizona University, shared his anticipation for the discoveries that may come from these samples. While his greatest wish is to find signs of early biology in the rocks, regardless of the outcome, the samples are expected to contribute significantly to unraveling the mysteries of the solar system.

“Objects like Bennu likely delivered the water that’s in our oceans and the molecules that make up our air, like nitrogen and carbon dioxide and really, critically, the organic material that led to the origin of life,” Lauretta explained.

Even before the capsule was opened, the team had found signs of water in extraneous pieces of the asteroid, further emphasizing the potential significance of the samples. Now, with the capsule accessible, NASA plans to safeguard the samples and make them available for scientists worldwide to analyze and study. The agency anticipates sharing these invaluable resources later this year, marking a milestone in space exploration and understanding the origins of our solar system.

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