Asteroid Bennu’s sample now available to scientists around the globe

The sample of asteroid Bennu, which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft brought back to Earth from asteroid Bennu on September 24, 2023, is now available to the global scientific community for independent research. NASA announced it on April 1, 2024.

A top-down view of one of the containers holding rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu
A top-down view of one of the containers holding rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu. (Image credit: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld and Joseph Aebersold)

The curation team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has released a catalog of the OSIRIS-REx sample.

The catalog details the small rocks and dust that scientists around the globe can request for their research.

If you need any specific pieces of the Bennu sample, then you will need to submit a well-justified scientific proposal outlining why you would like to request specific pieces, how you will perform their analysis, what you hope to learn, and how your analysis may affect the sample. 

You can submit a proposal through the sample request form available on the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) curation website.

A panel from the Astromaterials Allocation Review Board (AARB), experts who review sample requests for all NASA astromaterials, will review your scientific proposal.

The deadline for the first round of proposals is June 25, 2024, at 6 p.m. EDT (22:00 UTC). This is the only chance to request Bennu samples in 2024. However, starting in 2025, you will have the opportunity to request samples twice a year, one in the spring and the other in the fall (autumn).

Jemma Davidson, branch chief of Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at Johnson, said in a statement:

“Building this sample catalog and making it available to the scientific community within six months of those samples coming back is a phenomenal achievement. The curation team worked so incredibly hard and persistently to overcome various challenges to get the sample catalog out. It’s a major achievement for the curation team. It’s a huge milestone for the mission, and it’s also a big deal for the wider sample analysis community.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security–Regolith Explorer) was the first US mission to collect a sample from an asteroid and deliver it to Earth.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured the near-Earth asteroid Bennu
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. It is a carbon-rich asteroid of size 500 meters. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delivered total 121.6 grams (4.29 ounces) of material from asteroid Bennu.

It was the largest amount of asteroid sample ever collected in space and more than doubled the mission’s requirement, as the initial goal was to bring 60 grams of material to the earth.

Related article: NASA announces OSIRIS-REx delivers 121.6 grams sample from asteroid Bennu 

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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