The NASA capsule containing samples from the asteroid Bennu landed at 08:52 local time (15:52 in Lisbon), in the Utah desert, in the United States, putting an end to a seven-year journey.
It was the first time that NASA, the United States space agency, managed to collect samples from an asteroid. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency managed to recover asteroid debris in 2020, but it was a minimal amount.
The NASA mission, named “Osiris-Rex”, hopes to have collected 250 grams of the asteroid Bennu, although this will only be known with greater certainty when the capsule is opened in two days.
Experts believe that the asteroid Bennu contains molecules that date back to the formation of the solar system, 4,500 million years ago and that it could provide some answers to questions that have intrigued humanity for centuries, such as the origin of life and the solar system itself.
NASA broadcast the landing live and the most exciting moment occurred when a parachute was deployed, allowing the capsule to reduce its speed and prevent it from crashing into the desert.
“Welcome home,” said Noelia González, from the NASA communications team, upon arrival.
The journey began in 2016, when the “Osiris-Rex” probe departed the NASA center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It arrived at Bennu in 2018 and after flying around the asteroid for two years in search of the best place to collect samples, the spacecraft approached the surface to extract dust and pieces of rock.
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