A sample collected from the 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid Bennu contains abundant water and carbon, as revealed by NASA, which offers further support to the theory that life on Earth was seeded from outer space.
The discovery occurs after a seven year round trip to this distant rock, as part of the OSIRIS-REx mission, which dropped off its precious cargo in the Utah desert last month, which is undergoing careful scientific analysis.
“This is the largest carbon-rich asteroid sample ever returned to Earth,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson, at a press event at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where the first images of black dust and pebbles.
Carbon accounted for almost 5% of the total weight of the sample and was present in both organic and mineral forms, while water was locked within the crystalline structure of clay minerals, he said.
Scientists believe that the reason the Earth has oceans, lakes and rivers is because it was hit by water-carrying asteroids between 4,000 and 4,500 million years ago, which made it a habitable planet.