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

NASA has announced on February 15, 2024, that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft delivered a total of 121.6 grams (4.29 ounces) of sample from asteroid Bennu when it returned to earth on September 24, 2023.

Final 121.6 grams sample collected from asteroid Bennu
Final 121.6 grams sample collected from asteroid Bennu. (Image credit: NASA/Erika Blumenfeld & Joseph Aebersold)

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.

It’s 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.

Out of 121.6 grams sample, NASA will preserve at least 70% (85 grams) of the sample at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for further research by scientists worldwide, including future generations.

Only 30% of the sample will be given to a group of more than 200 scientists worldwide, including researchers from many US institutions, NASA partners JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency), and more.

Not only that, NASA will release a catalog of the OSIRIS-REx samples, which will be available to the global scientific community later this spring.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched on September 8, 2016, collected material from asteroid Bennu on October 20, 2020, and delivered the material to Earth on September 24, 2023.

The spacecraft didn’t land on the asteroid Bennu. Rather, it scooped up material from the Bennu’s surface through its robotic arm.

The sample return capsule of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission after touchdown in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023
The sample return capsule of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission after touchdown in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023. (Image credit: NASA/Keegan Barber)

However, after the sample delivery, the OSIRIS-REx mission was renamed OSIRIS-APEX (OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer), and the spacecraft is headed to another asteroid, Apophis, where it will reach in 2029. So OSIRIS-APEX is the extended mission of OSIRIS-REx.

Bennu is a carbon-rich near-Earth asteroid with a diameter of about half a kilometer. It is an Apollo-class asteroid whose orbit crosses the earth’s orbit, meaning it is a potentially hazardous object for the earth.

Researchers think that the material from the asteroid Bennu will help us reveal the mysteries of the origin of our solar system. 

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Ashim

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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