The initial results of studies involving newly returned samples collected from a 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid were unveiled by NASA on Wednesday.
Preliminary assessments of the samples, which were brought back to Earth last month, were carried out by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security–Regolith Explorer) science team.
The recent studies of the samples retrieved from asteroid Bennu “show evidence of water and high-carbon content,” according to the space agency, which could potentially point to the presence of the building blocks of life on Earth within the samples.
Image showing the outside of the OSIRIS-REx sample collector (Credit: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld & Joseph Aebersold).
“The bounty of carbon-rich material and the abundant presence of water-bearing clay minerals are just the tip of the cosmic iceberg,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.
“These discoveries, made possible through years of dedicated collaboration and cutting-edge science, propel us on a journey to understand not only our celestial neighborhood but also the potential for life’s beginnings,” Lauretta said. “With each revelation from Bennu, we draw closer to unraveling the mysteries of our cosmic heritage.”
Samples from asteroid Bennu being transported to Johnson Space Center in advance of their preliminary analysis, the results of which were revealed on Wednesday (Credit: NASAMoll Wasser).
Clean Rooms, Pristine Samples, and Bonus Material
Working over a period of ten days within clean rooms specially built for the study of the samples, scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center were surprised to discover “bonus material” that lined the exterior of the science canister’s collector head, as well as the canister’s base and lid.
Enough extra material was retrieved in these locations to impede the collection and containment process…