NASA Unveils Asteroid Sample

October 12, 2023
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We picked the right asteroid — and not only that, we brought back the right sample. This stuff is an astrobiologist’s dream.

Senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Dr. Daniel Glavin. On Wednesday, a “treasure chest of extraterrestrial material” containing carbon and water made its debut in a NASA unveiling of a sample from a 4.5 billion-year-old asteroid.

Why It Matters: The rocks (which arrived on Earth in late September after a seven-year cosmic mission was launched to collect them) provide scientists insights into the materials fueling life on our planet, “how the precursor materials to life may have been seeded on Earth,” and what precautions should be taken in order to prevent asteroid collision with Earth (NASA). This week’s unveiling represents initial findings from a small portion of the asteroid sample – the rest will be slowly disassembled from the collection device and analyzed over the next two years.

Helpful Context: “That is how we think water got to Earth. The reason that Earth is a habitable world, that we have oceans and lakes and rivers and rain, is because these [water-bearing] clay minerals landed on Earth 4 billion years ago to 4 and a half billion years ago, making our world habitable. So we’re seeing the way that water got incorporated into the solid material,” said Dante Lauretta, the mission’s principal investigator.

Also Worth Noting: Bad weather delays SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch of NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission to Oct. 13 (Space.com)

Unprecedented asteroid sample contains ‘crucial elements,’ NASA says in historic reveal (CNN)

Take a peek at what NASA brought back from an asteroid (NPR)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas

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