NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Capsule Safely Returns to Earth Carrying First Asteroid Sample

NASA's OSIRIS-REx capsule spacecraft successfully returned to Earth, carrying the first asteroid sample ever collected in space.

A significant achievement in space exploration unfolded as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully returned to Earth, carrying its precious cargo – the first asteroid sample ever collected in space. The spacecraft executed a strategic flyby of Earth, releasing a capsule containing an estimated 250 grams of asteroid rocks and soil, slated to land in the Utah desert. This monumental feat is set to provide invaluable insights into the origins of our solar system, as confirmed by NASA.

Approximately two years ago, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft meticulously gathered the 250-gram material from the asteroid Bennu, marking a remarkable milestone in the mission. Now, the critical phase involves safely transporting the sample to Earth, all while meticulously shielding it from potential heat, vibrations, and contamination from our planet.

The intricacies of this “parcel drop” mission demand precision, with the spacecraft required to follow an exact trajectory and velocity. A deviation from this precise path could result in the capsule either skipping off Earth’s atmosphere or burning up in it, rendering the samples unrecoverable.

Asteroids like Bennu serve as invaluable time capsules, preserving critical clues to the solar system’s early history. The OSIRIS-REx mission’s asteroid sample will unravel fundamental questions about our planet’s formation, the solar system’s origins, and the source of organics that might have triggered life on Earth.

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Post-retrieval, the asteroid sample will undergo thorough documentation and care at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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