On Sunday, September 24th, the ship OSIRIS REx NASA will approach Earth to deliver alien material collected from the asteroid Bennu, which formed in the solar system’s infancy. Therefore, this primitive sample could provide clues about the formation of our planet and its origin of life.
OSIRIS-REx was launched in 2016 and arrived in Bennu in 2020, where it extracted rocks and dust. Then he began his return journey. However, it is not planned to arrive on our planet, but rather it will be sent a capsule with the sample (250 grams) that must cross the atmosphere to land on the Earth’s surface. A similar approach to the Japanese Hayabusa-2 mission.
From space to earth
In recent months, the spacecraft received instructions from NASA to adjust its course so that it approached Earth at the correct speed and direction to carry out the capsule release that was supposed to take place 102,000 kilometers from the surface. After 20 minutes, the spacecraft turns on its engines to redirect its trajectory and head toward the asteroid Apophis, its next mission.
The released capsule will travel through space for approximately 4 hours enter the Earth’s atmosphere at 9:42 a.m At this crucial moment, which will be broadcast live, the object will move at a speed of 44,500 kilometers per hour and become a fireball due to friction. Nevertheless, the heat shield is intended to protect the sample inside.
Finally, 13 minutes later, it should use its parachutes to land gently in the Utah desert in the US, where a recovery team will be waiting. “The goal is to rescue the capsule as quickly as possible to prevent the sample from becoming contaminated with the Earth’s environment,” explains NASA.
Once recovered and packaged, it will be taken by helicopter to a military storage facility where it will be prepared for its journey to the United States NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, “where it will be documented, maintained and distributed to scientists around the world for analysis,” the space agency explains.
The study of our origins
The sun was almost born 4.6 billion years And over the next tens of millions of years, the same cloud of material that formed the star formed most of the planets and asteroids around it, giving rise to the solar system we know today.
According to studies, the asteroid Bennu has been one of the oldest objects in this cosmic neighborhood since its formation in the first 10 million years of the solar system, even before Earth. Since then, it has traveled through space with virtually no changes in its composition.
Scientists believe Bennu contains the same material as early Earth and even some of the same molecules that were already present. when life arose on the planet. In this sense, any additional information that emerges from the analysis of these samples could change our knowledge of our origins.