24/7 Space News
EXO WORLDS
NASA lab hopes to find life's building blocks in asteroid sample
ADVERTISEMENT
NASA lab hopes to find life's building blocks in asteroid sample
By Mois�s �VILA
Houston (AFP) July 25, 2023

Eager scientists and a gleaming lab awaits.

A sample from the asteroid Bennu, which could be key to understanding the formation of the solar system and our own planet, is set to be analyzed at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston after it reaches Earth in late September.

The precious cargo is currently aboard OSIRIS-REx, a US space probe launched in 2016 to Bennu, which orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 105 million miles (168 million kilometers).

Long white sleeves hang from the huge metal and glass box in which the sample will be handled.

Scientists will separate pieces of the rock and dust for study now, while carefully storing away the rest for future generations equipped with better technology -- a practice first started during the Apollo missions to the Moon.

"We don't expect there to be anything living but (rather) the building blocks of life," Nicole Lunning, lead OSIRIS-Rex sample curator, told AFP.

"That's really what motivated going to this type of asteroid, to understand what the precursors were that may have fostered life in our solar system and on Earth."

Once the return vessel arrives at the Texas "cleanroom," Lunning's job will be to carefully disassemble it and separate the contents, all while keeping the material pure and uncontaminated.

- Origins of life -

The spacecraft is scheduled to land in the Utah desert on September 24, carrying an estimated 8.8 ounces, or 250 grams of material -- just over a cupful.

Obtaining it involved a high-risk operation in October 2020: the probe came into contact with the asteroid for a few seconds, and a blast of compressed nitrogen was emitted to raise the dust sample which was then captured.

The whole mission was imperiled when NASA realized a few days later that the valve of the collection compartment was failing to close, letting fragments escape into space.

But the precious cargo was finally secured after being transferred to a capsule fixed in the spacecraft's center.

The first samples brought to Earth by asteroids were carried out by Japanese probes in 2010 and 2020, with the latter found to contain uracil, one of the building blocks of RNA.

The finding lent weight to a longstanding theory that life on Earth may have been seeded from outer space when asteroids crashed into our planet carrying fundamental elements.

Cosmochemist Eve Berger can't wait to get to work on the Bennu material.

"These samples haven't hit the Earth. They haven't been exposed to our atmosphere. They haven't been exposed to really anything except harsh space for billions of years," she said.

Ultimately they "will help us to determine whether what we really think is true, is true," said Berger.

Not only might the Bennu sample add to our knowledge of the ingredients that brought life to our world, but "if we can figure out what happened here on the Earth, that helps us to extrapolate to other bodies where we might look or how we might interpret what we're seeing," she added.

Could Bennu bring back something that's never been seen before? "You never know," said Berger.

"Bennu is a trickster, so we'll know more in a few months when the sample comes back -- that would be exciting!"

Related Links
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

RELATED CONTENT
The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
EXO WORLDS
Life on Earth didn't arise as described in textbooks
Copenhagen, Denmark (SPX) Jul 19, 2023
No, oxygen didn't catalyze the swift blossoming of Earth's first multicellular organisms. The result defies a 70-year-old assumption about what caused an explosion of oceanic fauna hundreds of millions of years ago. Between 685 and 800 million years ago, multicellular organisms began to appear in all of Earth's oceans during what's known as the Avalon explosion, a forerunner era of the more famed Cambrian explosion. During this era, sea sponges and other bizarre multicellular organisms replaced sm ... read more

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
EXO WORLDS
Geophysics student employs 800-year-old method for Lunar GPS system

NASA Named One of America's Top Employers for Women

NASA Launches Beta Site; On-Demand Streaming, App Update Coming Soon

Keeping your underwear clean on the Moon

EXO WORLDS
Marotta Controls Delivers 30,000th CoRe Valve to SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launches 22 Starlink satellites

SpaceX misses attempt for record-breaking 'double-launch' attempt

Gilmour Space Technologies to accelerate design and manufacturing with Siemens Xcelerator

EXO WORLDS
Deep Impact: Sol 3899

Making the Most of Limited Power: Sols 3900-3901

Unveiling Mars' Past: Olympus Mons as a Gigantic Volcanic Isle

Sols 3895-3897: Navigating Through the Crater Cluster

EXO WORLDS
China's Space Station Opens Doors to Global Scientific Community

China's Lunar Mission targets manned landing by 2030

Shenzhou XVI crew set to conduct their first EVA

Timeline unveiled for China's advanced manned spacecraft's inaugural flight

EXO WORLDS
From AI to Nuclear: UK launches Strategic Plan for Future Space Exploration

Iridium Board of Directors approves additional share repurchase program

Future of Satellite Internet: OneWeb vs Starlink

Successful entry into service of the multi-mission EUTELSAT 10B satellite

EXO WORLDS
Beyond Gravity to provide off-the-shelf computer to Quantum Space's Ranger multi-purpose vehicle

Optimum Technologies unveils innovative spacecraft facility in Northern Virginia

Goddard, Wallops Engineers Test Printed Electronics in Space

Groundbreaking 3D-Printed frictionless gear for space applications

EXO WORLDS
Water discovered in rocky planet-forming zone offers clues on habitability

Violent Atmosphere Gives Rare Look at Early Planetary Life

NASA lab hopes to find life's building blocks in asteroid sample

Using cosmic weather to study which worlds could support life

EXO WORLDS
NASA's Juno Is Getting Ever Closer to Jupiter's Moon Io

James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter moons in a new light

SwRI team identifies giant swirling waves at the edge of Jupiter's magnetosphere

First ultraviolet data collected by ESA's JUICE mission

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


ADVERTISEMENT



The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.