Space travel: NASA can finally open containers with asteroid samples

Around four months after the “Osiris-Rex” probe dropped a debris sample from the asteroid Bennu onto Earth, scientists from the US space agency NASA have finally been able to open the container.

Space travel: NASA can finally open containers with asteroid samples

Around four months after the “Osiris-Rex” probe dropped a debris sample from the asteroid Bennu onto Earth, scientists from the US space agency NASA have finally been able to open the container. Two "stubborn locks" could finally be opened after weeks of attempts, NASA said, publishing a photo that provides a look at the opened capsule and its contents.

Previously, NASA had received a lot of ridicule on the Internet because it had managed to collect a sample from an asteroid and dropped it on Earth, but then failed to open it.

NASA said the contents of the container were small stones and dust, each up to one centimeter in circumference. Exactly how much it is in total is now being determined. The NASA scientists had previously collected around 70.3 grams of rubble samples that were in the capsule around the actual container. Initial examinations of this part of the sample had shown that it contained traces of water and carbon.

A milestone in space travel

It is the first sample of an asteroid successfully brought to Earth in the history of the US space agency - and the largest such sample ever taken. It was dropped in September by the NASA probe "Osiris-Rex" from an altitude of around 102,000 kilometers - and then landed in the desert of the US state of Utah, protected by a heat shield and slowed down by parachutes. From there it was then taken to NASA laboratories in the US state of Texas - where around 200 scientists are now working on the material using 60 different examination methods. A full catalog of the sample will be published this year, it said.

The deep black asteroid Bennu, named after an ancient Egyptian deity, has a diameter of around 550 meters and could come quite close to Earth in a good 150 years. Even if the risk of impact is very low, NASA counts Bennu as one of the most dangerous asteroids currently known - and therefore wants to research it in detail. The scientists also hope that the “Osiris Rex” mission, which costs around a billion dollars, will provide insights into the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago, because such asteroids are remnants of it.

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