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Asteroid Bennu's samples available for global scientific scrutiny
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Asteroid Bennu's samples available for global scientific scrutiny
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Apr 02, 2024

In a significant advancement for space research, NASA's OSIRIS-REx team has made the asteroid Bennu samples accessible for global scientific investigation, a mere six months following their Earth arrival. Managed by NASA's Johnson Space Center, the unveiling of the OSIRIS-REx sample catalog marks a key moment, offering researchers worldwide the opportunity to delve into the composition of these extraterrestrial materials.

Jemma Davidson, head of the Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office at Johnson, highlighted the unique nature of this release, noting that, aside from limited displays at scientific gatherings, the Bennu samples have been largely under wraps. Now, with 121.6 grams of asteroid Bennu material cataloged - a record-breaking haul for a space mission and surpassing the initial mass goal - the scientific community stands on the brink of major new discoveries.

Researchers examining the samples have already reported finding organic molecules and water-bearing minerals, suggesting these rocks might harbor life's essential components. The catalog, complete with detailed descriptions and imagery, aims to facilitate targeted research efforts, requiring scientists to submit thorough proposals for accessing the samples.

The ARES curation website outlines the proposal submission process, emphasizing the scientific merit and potential impact of the proposed research. A panel of experts from the Astromaterials Allocation Review Board will evaluate these requests, with a submission deadline set for June 25, 2024. This round represents the sole opportunity for sample requests in 2024, though future years will offer additional windows.

Davidson praised the curation team's efforts in assembling and sharing the catalog within such a tight timeframe, recognizing it as a significant milestone for the mission and the broader research community. This initiative not only demonstrates the dedication of NASA's team but also underscores the collaborative spirit driving space exploration and study.

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