Capsule with NASA’s first asteroid sample heads for Utah touchdown

Capsule with NASA’s first asteroid sample heads for Utah touchdown

A NASA capsule carrying the largest soil sample ever collected from an asteroid is set to return to Earth on Sunday. The capsule, part of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, will parachute into the Utah desert to deliver its celestial specimen to scientists. This marks the culmination of a seven-year voyage.

The capsule will be released at 6:42 a.m. EDT for its final descent to Earth. It will touch down within a landing zone west of Salt Lake City on the Utah Test and Training Range. This mission, a collaboration between NASA and the University of Arizona, aims to bring back the third and largest asteroid sample ever returned to Earth for analysis.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collected its specimen from Bennu, a small carbon-rich asteroid. Bennu is classified as a “near-Earth object” because it passes relatively close to our planet every six years. The asteroid measures 500 meters across, making it slightly wider than the Empire State Building is tall.

Bennu is a relic of the early solar system and holds valuable clues to the origins and development of rocky planets like Earth. It may even contain organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life. Previous samples returned from the asteroid Ryugu contained organic compounds, supporting the hypothesis that celestial objects bombarded early Earth with the ingredients for life.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft launched in September 2016 and reached Bennu in 2018. After nearly two years of orbiting the asteroid, it collected a sample of the surface material in October 2020. The spacecraft departed Bennu in May 2021 for its return journey to Earth.

During re-entry, the capsule is expected to reach temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Parachutes will deploy to slow its descent, allowing it to gently land in the Utah desert. The sample, estimated to be 250 grams, will be flown to a clean room for examination before being transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. It will then be distributed to scientists in laboratories around the world.

The main portion of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will continue its mission to explore another near-Earth asteroid named Apophis.

About News Team

Hi, I'm Alex Perez, an experienced writer with a focus on lifestyle and culture news. From food and fashion to travel and entertainment, I love exploring the latest trends and sharing my insights with readers. I also have a strong interest in world news and business, and enjoy covering breaking stories and events.

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