A long-awaited asteroid sample has landed in the US
, with space particles potentially offering fresh insight into how Earth and other planets formed.
The sample, dubbed “Asteroid Bennu,” arrived to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, on October 20. It was collected in October of 2020 after a more than two-year journey aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
The asteroid is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old, a remnant of the early solar system. Scientists are hoping to determine its exact age and composition by analyzing the atomic structure of the particles.
“This is a huge day for planetary science. It marks the culmination of an incredible journey of many years of hard work and passion,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a media event marking the arrival.
The analysis of the sample could provide significant new clues regarding how planets were formed billions of years ago. It can also shed light on the potential existence of extraterrestrial life.
The sample was gathered via a robotic arm on the spacecraft, which allowed it to be placed in a container. It was then stored inside a capsule and transported to Earth.
NASA will spend the next few years analyzing the sample to answer questions that we have been seeking for centuries.
“It’s the beginning of a new chapter in our understanding of our solar system and its history,” said Bridenstine. “We are on the cusp of discoveries that have the potential to help inform how we respond to any potential future hazard from space. So, this is a historic moment, and we are thrilled to be part of it.”