By Emmanuel Nduka
NASA has disclosed that it’s first largest sample ever collected from an asteroid in space, landed in the Utah desert on Sunday.
NASA said the sample landed after a fiery final descent through Earth’s atmosphere, seven years after the mission’s launch.
“Touchdown of the Osiris-Rex sample return capsule. A journey of a billion miles to asteroid Bennu and back has come to an end,” a commentator said on NASA’s live video webcast while discussing the landing.
The sample, collected in 2020 from Bennu, is estimated by the US space agency to contain some 250 grams (nine ounces) of material, far more than two previous asteroid specimens brought back by Japanese missions.
Scientists are hopeful that the sample will provide a better understanding of the formation of the solar system and how Earth became habitable.
NASA says even that small amount should “help us better understand the types of asteroids that could threaten Earth” and cast light “on the earliest history of our solar system.”
“This sample return is really historic. This is going to be the biggest sample we’ve brought back since the Apollo moon rocks” were returned to Earth, NASA scientist Amy Simon told AFP.