NASA has completed a unique mission to deliver soil samples collected on the asteroid Bennu to Earth. They were dropped in a special capsule by the American spacecraft OSIRIS-REx, which flew near our planet, writes The Verge.
The science capsule landed on parachutes at 10:52 a.m. ET at the U.S. Department of Defense’s test site in Utah. The samples collected on the asteroid weighed about 250 grams. This is the agency’s first mission to return asteroid soil samples to Earth.
“NASA invests in small body missions like OSIRIS-REx to investigate the rich population of asteroids in our solar system that can give us clues about how the solar system formed and evolved,” said Melissa Morris, OSIRIS-REx program executive, in a mission overview briefing. “It’s our own origin story.”
The OSIRIS-REx mission was launched in 2016. Four years later, the spacecraft encountered an asteroid and collected samples on it. This is expected to help scientists understand the early stages of the solar system.
Now that OSIRIS-REx has dropped its sample capsule, its initial work is complete. But the spacecraft is still in space, with power and working scientific instruments. So now it will turn into OSIRIS-APEX and continue to explore a new target, the asteroid Apophis.