In a few days, NASA scientists will open the capsule, which contains dust from the asteroid Bennu, to delve deeper into the secrets of our solar system.
On Sunday, the first vehicle carrying asteroid samples brought by NASA from deep space landed in the Utah desert, concluding a seven-year journey.
The Bennu asteroid sample is estimated at about 250 grams, which far exceeds the sample transported from the Ryugu asteroid in 2020, which amounted to 5 grams at the time, and the small sample that came from the Itokawa asteroid in 2010.
Scientists estimate that the capsule contains at least a cup of carbon-rich asteroid debris known as Bennu, but they will not announce with certainty the timing of opening the container.
What is the goal?
These samples, preserved from the dawn of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, will help scientists better understand how Earth and life formed. The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said before the samples were transported to Texas that opening the container in Houston within the next day or two would be the “moment of truth,” given doubts about the amount inside. Bennu currently orbits the sun at a distance of 81 million kilometers from Earth, and its width is about half a kilometer, that is, the size of the famous Empire State Building in America, but it is in the shape of a rotating top.
Another reason why scientists are interested in the asteroid
The British Sky News website said that there is another reason for scientists’ interest in the asteroid Bennu. Bennu is the deadliest known space rock in the solar system, with a one-in-2,700 chance of hitting Earth in 2182. The asteroid is large enough to create a 6-kilometre-wide crater and cause an airburst. The collision would level buildings over hundreds of square kilometers. By studying the sample, scientists will have a better understanding of how to deal with the threat.