WATCH: NASA readies to receive asteroid rock sample

Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 12:25 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In just a few days, scientists at NASA will welcome the arrival of rock samples from an asteroid named Bennu, believed to contain elements which made up the building blocks of our Universe.

Dr. Noah Petro, Planetary Scientist and Project Scientist with Artemis III at NASA Goddard joins us live on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk to discuss the mission.

According to NASA the samples from Bennu will be the first the agency has returned to Earth. They’ll arrive September 24, landing in the Utah desert in a capsule from OSIRIS-REx, Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security – Regolith Explore.

OSIRIS-REx has been in space since 2016 and will have traveled 3.9 billion miles by the time it makes its delivery to Earth. It was sent to a carbon-rich asteroid called Bennu, and collected 8.8 ounces of rock samples - the biggest since Apollo’s moon rocks.

The mission launched on October 20, 2020 and began its return trip home on May 10, 2021.

According to NASA the materials from Bennu are like a time capsule from the earliest days of our solar system. Scientists around the world will use the samples to help answer questions about the origins of life and the nature of asteroids.

NASA said in a press release, “The sample offers a pristine look at the building blocks that became our Sun and planets some 4.5 billion years ago. Asteroids are chunky leftover rocks and metals that didn’t coalesce into the planets or Sun. They’ve changed little since their formation, and offer a pristine window into the chemical composition of the early solar system - and whether asteroids like Bennu carried the organic molecules that could have seeded early Earth with the ingredients for life.”