Samples from Bennu, the asteroid that could collide with our planet, are already on Earth

The return capsule of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived on Earth in a controlled manner on September 24, with 250 grams of dust and rock samples from the asteroid Bennu, which is suspected to one day collide with our planet. planet.

The pristine material from this space rock will help shed light on the formation of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, and perhaps even how life on Earth began, according to NASA.

Fulfilling the planned plan and after a return trip of almost three years, the capsule – weighing about 45 kilos – landed softly by parachute at 14:55 UTC at the Utah Test and Training Range of the United States Department of Defense.

NASA had powered up the spacecraft hours earlier to ensure the probe’s trajectory and orientation were aligned to achieve its goal of landing. The capsule separated at 10:42 UTC at a distance of 102,000 kilometers from its destination. Meanwhile, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which left Earth in 2016, corrected course to move away from Earth towards its new target – the asteroid Apophis – whose orbit it will enter in 2029 for an 18-month reconnaissance mission.

The return capsule reached the Earth’s upper atmosphere at 14:42 UTC at a speed of 43,450 kilometers per hour or 36 times the speed of sound. A thermal shield protected this descent, absorbing and dissipating the heat produced by air friction, with temperatures double those of volcanic lava.

Two minutes later the capsule’s braking parachute deployed to reduce its speed from hypersonic to subsonic speeds. When there was 1,600 meters of altitude left to touch the ground, the main parachute opened, with which the capsule descended gently to the surface.

Once on the ground, a specialized team is in charge of checking the condition of the capsule and recovering the samples, which will be transferred to a special laboratory at the NASA Johnson Center, where they will be preserved and studied. The historic landing will also be studied to inform future space deliveries.

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