NASA finds water and carbon compounds in Bennu asteroid samples – an astrobiologist’s dream

NASA specialists have conducted a preliminary analysis of soil samples from the asteroid Bennu, which were delivered to Earth as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission. Scientists found carbon compounds and water in them, writes Ars Technica.

After seven years in space, a small spacecraft carrying samples from an asteroid landed in the desert of Utah (USA) at the end of September.

Since then, scientists have begun to study the material. First, the material that was outside the main container. It turned out that it contained 5% carbon and a large amount of water in the form of hydrated clay minerals.

Experts suggest that billions of years ago, similar asteroids delivered the vast majority of water that is now found in the Earth’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. By collecting “clues” from asteroid dust, scientists hope to better understand how the Earth turned into a living world.

“This is incredible material,” said Daniel Glavin, a co-investigator on the mission. “It’s loaded with organics. If we’re looking for biologically essential organic molecules, we picked the right asteroid, and we brought back the right sample. This is an astrobiologist’s dream.”

The scientists have thorough research ahead of them. In the coming weeks, they plan to open the main container and begin cataloging all the material. After cataloging, the material will be divided among scientists from 35 countries that are members of the OSIRIS-REx mission.

The study of the material can tell us about the origin of our planet and, perhaps, even about people themselves.