Nasa confirms return of asteroid Bennu samples
The “most dangerous known rock in the Solar System” has been brought to Earth in dusty form.
A capsule from the American space agency Nasa landed in the Utah West Desert.
The samples were collected by the Osiris-Rex spacecraft in 2020 from the surface of the asteroid Bennu.
Among the reasons NASA is interested in the mountainous object is that it has an outside chance of hitting our planet within the next 300 years.
Furthermore, the samples are likely to provide new insights into the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago, as well as how life on Earth began.
On long-range cameras, the Osiris-Rex team caught sight of their capsule with jubilation.
The aircraft touched down three minutes early on desert land owned by the Department of Defense.
Over the western US, the car-tyre-sized container was screamed into the atmosphere at more than 12km/s (27,000mph). It was dropped gently, perfectly on restricted ground, thanks to a heatshield and parachutes that slowed its descent.
Tim Priser, chief engineer at Lockheed Martin, said, “This little capsule understood the assignment.” He said, “It was as light as a feather when it touched down.”
When I heard the parachute opened and we were coming in for a soft landing, I cried like a baby,” said Osiris-Rex principal investigator Dante Lauretta.
I was overwhelmed by the accomplishment. It was an amazing experience.”