There is a place in the middle of the Utah desert, in the US, with unusual activity this Sunday. The reason? The imminent arrival to Earth of a true scientific treasure, equivalent to a time capsule. It is expected that around 5 p.m. (Spanish peninsular time) a capsule with a quarter kilo of Bennu materialan asteroid about 500 meters in diameter whose composition will be able to be analyzed in detail with the most sophisticated instruments in terrestrial laboratories to investigate the origin of our solar system and better understand these celestial bodies in order to prepare future planetary defense missions. when an asteroid is detected heading towards Earth.
In fact, There is a small chance (about one in 1,750) that Bennu will impact Earth in the middle of the next century, according to NASA estimates, which, among other reasons, led the agency to choose it as the target of this robotic mission called OSIRIS-REx.
The samples have been collected by the ship OSIRIS-REx which, after a seven-year adventure, culminates today the mission with a exciting and complex landing before which NASA researchers hold their breath.
“It is the first time that the US is going to bring samples collected from an asteroid to Earth“, he points out in a videoconference interview Lucas Paganini NASA planetary scientist and one of the members of the team deployed to the US Army Base Dugway, a military testing ground near Salt Lake City.
Until now, only the Japanese had managed to bring material from one of these celestial bodies to Earth, through the Hayabusa 2 robotic mission, which in December 2020 brought 5.4 grams of rocks and dust from the asteroid Ryugu to our planet. The pioneer was its eventful sister mission Hayabusa 1, which in 2010 became the first probe to bring particles from an asteroid to Earth for analysis. However, due to various technical problems, instead of obtaining several grams of dust, it brought less than a milligram of particles that were also contaminated by material from the ship itself.