Wow! NASA finds building blocks of LIFE in Bennu Asteroid sample!

The Bennu Asteroid samples returned to Earth by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft might contain building blocks of life such as carbon and water, NASA revealed in a press conference.

| Updated on: Oct 12 2023, 12:03 IST
5 asteroids approaching Earth today at fearsome speeds! Know details
Bennu asteroid
1/5 Asteroid 2022 UX1 - Asteroid 2022 UX1, is currently heading towards Earth and will pass by closely today, October 11. The asteroid has a width of just 28 feet. It is travelling at a speed of 30897 kilometers per hour. The space rock will make its closest approach at 1.2 million kilometers, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
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2/5 Asteroid 2023 TE – Asteroid 2023 TE, which is almost 46 feet wide, is heading for Earth and will make its closest approach to Earth today October 11. This space rock is moving at a blistering speed of 20085 kilometers per hour. It will pass Earth at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
Bennu asteroid
3/5 Asteroid 2023 TF4 – Asteroid 2023 TF4 will also make its closest approach to Earth today, October 11. In terms of size, it is nearly 49 feet wide. As per NASA, Asteroid 2023 TF4 will come as close as 2.2 million kilometers and is already moving at a breakneck speed of 31394 kilometers per hour. (Pixabay)
Bennu asteroid
4/5 Asteroid 2023 TF2 – Yet another asteroid designated as Asteroid 2023 TF2 will make its closest approach to the planet today, October 11. The asteroid, with a width of 89 feet, will approach Earth at a distance of about 2.6 million kilometers and a blistering speed of nearly 68659 kilometers per hour. (NASA)
Bennu asteroid
5/5 Asteroid 2023 RD11 – Asteroid 2023 RD11, with a width of almost 130 feet, will make its closest approach to Earth today, October 11. The space rock is already rushing towards Earth at a speed of 34315 kilometers per hour and will pass the planet at a distance of about 4.9 million kilometers.  (Pixabay)
Bennu asteroid
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Shockingly, Asteroid Bennu, whose samples reached Earth last month, has a 1/2700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2195. (NASA)

NASA has been making efforts to track and study asteroids to remove uncertainties about their close approaches with Earth and know about any potential impacts. Through its various advanced instruments, NASA revealed that a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) called Bennu has a 1/2700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2195. In efforts to study this space rock, NASA launched the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) on September 8, 2016. The mission involved travelling to the asteroid, landing on its surface, collecting dust and rock samples, and returning them to Earth. The mission is now over as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft recently released the sample container over Earth, after which it underwent a “nitrogen purge” before being taken to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The space agency yesterday opened the sample container in a live event, and the resulting tests of the rock have revealed shocking results!

Bennu Asteroid sample

In a release, NASA revealed that during a preliminary assessment conducted by the science team of the OSIRIS-REx mission, the samples collected from the surface of the Bennu Asteroid have high carbon content as well as water! Both of these indicate the presence of the building blocks of life!

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “The OSIRIS-REx sample is the biggest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever delivered to Earth and will help scientists investigate the origins of life on our own planet for generations to come.”

This discovery was made during the preliminary tests and the scientific team will now conduct further studies on the carbon compound found in the asteroid sample. It underwent scanning under an electron microscope, infrared measurements, X-ray diffraction, and chemical element analysis. NASA said that the sample would be studied for decades to come, and it could hold the key to unlocking the mystery behind the formation of the solar system, how life came to be on Earth and how to avoid asteroid collisions.

“NASA missions like OSIRIS-REx will improve our understanding of asteroids that could threaten Earth while giving us a glimpse into what lies beyond. The sample has made it back to Earth, but there is still so much science to come – science like we've never seen before”, Nelson added.

Extra sample collected

NASA revealed that their intent was to collect 60 grams of asteroid samples. However, when the lid of the canister was opened, so much extra material was found that it slowed down the process of containing the primary sample in the clean room.

Vanessa Wyche, director, NASA Johnson Space Center, said, “We've had scientists and engineers working side-by-side for years to develop specialized gloveboxes and tools to keep the asteroid material pristine and to curate the samples so researchers now and decades from now can study this precious gift from the cosmos. ”

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First Published Date: 12 Oct, 10:40 IST