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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Unlocks More Secrets from Asteroid Bennu

9 Oct 2020, 07:58 UTC
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Unlocks More Secrets from Asteroid Bennu
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by Brittany EnosUniversity of Arizona

NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission now knows much more about the material it’ll be collecting in just a few weeks. In a special collection of six papers published today in the journals Science and Science Advances, scientists on the OSIRIS-REx mission present new findings on asteroid Bennu’s surface material, geological characteristics, and dynamic history. They also suspect that the delivered sample of Bennu may be unlike anything we have in the meteorite collection on Earth.

These discoveries complete the OSIRIS-REx mission’s pre–sample collection science requirements and offer insight into the sample of Bennu that scientists will study for generations to come.

One of the papers, led by Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that carbon-bearing, organic material is widespread on the asteroid’s surface, including at the mission’s primary sample site, Nightingale, where OSIRIS-REx will make its first sample collection attempt on October 20. These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material will likely be present in the collected sample.

This organic matter may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology. Scientists are planning detailed experiments on these organic molecules ...

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